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Gabriel Morgan

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  1. There are many watershed moments in a person's life; this was one of mine. - - - - - - 15 years after Vincent first told me he loved me - - - - - - I awoke slowly, easing my eyes open to the pearly gray light of dawn drifting across my bedroom ceiling. After a second or two, I remembered last night and rolled my head carefully to the left. Tony was still asleep, on his side facing me, one hand tucked under his chin and the other spread flat on the sheet between us. His face was peaceful, his breathing even until I placed my hand over his and squeezed lightly. His breath hitched and he blinked sleepily. Please let it be okay I thought as our eyes met. Please. He stared at me for a long moment, long enough for me to think shit, and then he smiled. - - - - - - 13 1/2 years after Vincent first told me he loved me - - - - - A few years after Matt moved in with Adam, they began working with an architect on plans for a house on the property along the creek. It took another year to build, but it was a marvelous place, made of large timbers and natural field stone, with wide plank floors and windows everywhere. They had a pool and hot tub in back, and an eight-stall barn down the hill. Matt's studio was a six-day wonder when it was first built and got written up in Architectural Monthly. It sat on stilts straddling the creek down in the clearing, and was roofed entirely in glass. The big open space was split almost diagonally with a couple little bridges across the five foot gap. It was a magical place, filled with light and the tinkle of water over rocks and the smell of turpentine. After Vincent's death, I went to stay with them. Matt had been with me at Vincent's bedside, and when it was over, he simply took me home with him and there I stayed for the next few months. The hustle and bustle of their household kept me from sinking into the darkness that always lurked at the edge of my soul since Dylan's death. Matt became quite thoughtful some years ago when Del became Kelly's legal guardian, and a few years later, when he and Adam were in a position to do so, they applied to the foster care program in our county. At first, there was a fair amount of resistance to putting already fragile kids in the care of two gay men - even a well-off, committed couple like Matt and Adam - but they flooded the bureaucrats with enough character references to paper the inside of their house, and soon had two brothers – Josh, 7, and Tyler, 9 - staying with them. They were followed a year later by a severely withdrawn eight-year-old named Kevin, who spent most of the first year he was with them as silent as a tomb. Seven years and lots of therapy later, the boys were healthy and happy, and I envied Matt and Adam their close-knit family. At first, the kids left me alone, no doubt warned off by Matt, but they were teenagers and over the years, they’d come to love me, as I had them. One afternoon when I'd been there about a month, I looked up to see the three of them peering in my bedroom door. Josh and Tyler were brown-haired and blue-eyed - great looking All-American kids - but Kevin was in a class of his own. His pale skin was the perfect foil for his black hair and green eyes, and at fifteen, he was a beautiful boy. "Sean?" Tyler asked tentatively. "Can we come in?" I nodded, and they sidled in to sit with me in front of the bay window. I was staying in the big bedroom at the back of the house that looked out over the nearby woods and the fields further off. They made polite conversation for a while, but pretty soon they were fidgeting with the pillow fringe and kicking each other, and I finally said I needed a nap, so that they could leave guilt-free. Tyler and Josh dashed off, but Kevin stayed behind. He'd been badly abused as a young child, and although he'd been taken from that situation at age five, the damage was done. Matt had dedicated himself to reaching the boy, and went with him to therapy three times a week for almost a year before Kevin would speak directly to him. After that, he talked a little to Adam and the other boys, but it was another year until he'd chat with the rest of us. He eventually took quite a liking to Vincent, and spent time in the kitchen at Corleone's learning the secrets of Italian cooking and how to swear in several languages. Kevin would always be a quiet boy, but his past had given him empathy beyond his years, and now he came and sat with me on the couch. I continued to gaze out the window, comfortable in our silence, until he slipped his hand into mine. I looked down at our joined hands for a long moment, his smaller fingers laced into my own, reflecting that no one had held my hand since Vincent had finally let go of it that last day in the hospital. When I brought my eyes up to Kevin’s, he wasn't smiling with that hearty cheerfulness that people tend to adopt around someone who's been through a tragedy. Instead, tears glistened on his lashes as he swallowed hard before speaking to me. "Are you gonna be okay?" he asked, his voice trembling slightly. "I mean, you don't eat hardly at all, and you just stay in here by yourself." He sniffed and swiped at his nose with the back of his free hand. "I couldn't stand it if you……" He couldn't quite say the word 'died' to me, and it was then that I felt the first stirring of anything like emotion since that dreadful mid-February day when the light of my life had been extinguished. But he was right - I'd lost 15lbs and rarely left my room except to wander the house in the still of night. I tightened my hand in his and had to clear my throat before I could answer him. "I'll be okay, Kevin. It's just…. I still can't really believe that he's gone. It's like I'll wake up one of these mornings, and he'll be in the kitchen scrambling eggs and complaining that I slept too late." That was the most I'd spoken since I'd moved in, and Kevin nodded encouragingly as he replied. "I know. Whenever I go to Corleone's now, Tony makes a fuss over me, but it's just not the same." "No, it's not," I agreed sadly. Nothing was the same without Vincent's vibrant life weaving in and out of my own. Kevin scooted closer and rested his head on my shoulder. We sat in companionable silence until Adam came up to tell us it was dinner time. Kevin kissed my cheek before he went off to clean up, and Adam took his place on the couch. "Wanna join us?" he asked, as he had every night since I'd come to stay. I swung my head to look at him, seeing compassion and love in his eyes. "Yeah, I think I will." Pleasure spread across his face, and when I smiled in return, he hugged me tightly, then took my hand and led me down the stairs to the dining room. The boys were jostling each other as they sat down, throwing discreet elbows until Matt gave them a frown, which turned into a pleased smile as he saw me enter the room. He pulled out the chair next to Kevin and squeezed my shoulders as I sat down. Although Matt spent part of every day sitting with me, I hadn't joined in any family activities until tonight. Maria's cousin Lucy had come to work for them shortly after the house was finished, and she'd become as essential to their family as Maria had been to Vincent and me. She was a placid woman who took life with three teenage boys in stride, keeping them fed and loving them through all their ups and downs. I joined them for meals after that and spent the occasional evening in the den watching the boys play video games, or trying to beat them at poker. Despite the critics' predictions, Josh and Tyler were decidedly heterosexual, sneaking dirty magazines into their rooms and agonizing over which girls to ask to the school dances. Kevin had so far shown no interest in either sex, leading me to wonder if he'd been permanently scarred by his childhood trauma. After that day, he spent a lot of time with me - coaxing me outside for a walk, asking me for help with his homework (which he knew perfectly well how to do without my assistance), begging me to go for a ride with him so he could practice driving. Later that week, I was taking a pre-bedtime shower when the door slid open and Adam stepped in. I hadn't been intimate with him since the trip Vincent and Matt took to Paris a few years ago. They'd been gone three months, and I'd come to stay with Adam while they were away, to help with the boys. In response to my raised eyebrows, he said, "We figured maybe you were ready for some company, so we flipped a quarter and I won." I wasn't sure I was ready for anything, but didn't protest when he took the soap from my hand and turned me by the shoulder so that he could wash my back. He kneaded my neck and shoulders, worked the muscles alongside my spine, and then dropped his hands to my butt and slowed down a bit. As he drew his hands firmly up my thighs, he twisted his wrists so that his fingers met between my legs and slid up the crack of my ass. It was just non-sexual enough that I relaxed into it, enjoying the touch of his hands, without feeling that I had to respond. But then he gradually nudged my feet apart with his own, and concentrated his efforts in my groin. I had my forehead resting against my crossed arms on the tile wall, gazing down with wonder at my filling cock. I'd had zero interest in sex up to now, and hadn't masturbated since Vincent's death, but apparently, I was 'ready for some company,' as he'd so delicately put it, because Adam's handiwork definitely had me thinking about my dick. And my asshole, because his fingers were probing me gently, easing in and out just a bit as he continued his soapy massage. Now and then, he'd slide a hand up to tug on my balls or give my cock a stroke, and after my erection reached the horizontal, he turned me around into the water. "Rinse off," he whispered into my neck, "and let's go to bed." By then that sounded like a great idea, so I did as he asked, drying his back after he dried mine, and crawling under the covers that he held up for me. He rolled onto me, propping himself on his elbows so that he could look at me. As he held my head between his hands, he studied my face for a bit before leaning down and kissing me, softly at first, but then with growing passion when I responded to him. When I pushed him off and slid down to suck his cock, he tried to stop me, and I realized that he'd planned to do all the work, but this was Adam, one of my oldest and dearest friends, and I wanted to. We played around for a bit, ending up with me on my side as he worked his cock into me from behind. He wrapped me in his arms as he began to thrust, holding me tight, and I gave myself over to it, stroking off when he got close. My orgasm was long and intense, draining me both physically and emotionally, although I didn't begin to cry until we were cleaned up and dozing off to sleep. That was the last time I wept for Vincent, lying there in Adam's embrace, and I realized I was crying from guilt. I was beginning to recover from his death. A part of me wanted to mourn forever, to sit still in a dim room and think about him, about us, to wallow in my aloneness. Survivor's guilt. I felt disloyal and uncaring to be thinking about living again, but I knew he wouldn't want that for me. After that night, Adam came to my room about once a week, always unannounced, always staying the night, and it became something I looked forward to with the intensity a child devotes to Christmas morning. One night it was Matt who tapped at my door. I said 'come in,' assuming it was Adam, and when the door opened and Matt cleared his throat, I looked up in surprise. We stared at each other for a second, and then he said, "I finally figured out that sonofabitch had a trick quarter." I had not been with Matt sexually since the day he left my house to live with Adam, thirteen years ago last month. We had remained as close as we'd always been, and saw each other every few days, but as far as I knew, Matt slept only with Adam. When I didn't return his smile, he sobered up and came to sit on the bed next to me. I had to ask. "Adam's okay with this?" "Yeah. His idea, actually. I wanted to before now, but…… I wasn't sure that…… I just wasn't sure," he finished. I scooted over to make room for him in the bed. He lay on his side with his arms around me, and rested his head on my chest. His body felt achingly familiar to my hands even after all these years, and I closed my eyes with a sigh as I lowered my face to his hair. "Oh, Matty……" We stayed like that for a long time, just taking comfort in each other, but eventually, he lifted his face to me and when I kissed him, it was as though the past thirteen years had never happened. By the time I pushed my way into him, our eyes locked to one another, I knew that what I'd felt for him long ago was the real McCoy. I'd always been in love with Matt. Our lovemaking was intense and passionate, and as I fucked him, he whispered my name over and over until he came in a rush of cum and moans. But he left my bed before morning, and after that night, it was Adam who visited me. The 14th Annual Art Walk was in late April; Kevin and I went in the middle of the afternoon, nibbling bread sticks as we wandered the booths. Tony had almost canceled the Walk this year due to Vincent's death, but had decided to soldier on. He'd gotten married the summer after Dylan died, figuring that since he already had two kids with his girlfriend, he might as well marry her. We were all a little skeptical, but they'd been together almost fourteen years, so I guess it was doing okay. The kids were working today - Sonja had waved us through the ticket gate when we'd arrived, and Tony Jr had given us the breadsticks and glasses of Chablis. Matt's international success as an artist hadn't stopped him from exhibiting here every year with David, and as we came to his booth, he was autographing one of the Art Walk posters featuring his drawing of a gnarled old grapevine growing up a weathered fence post. It was done in watercolors, soft and delicate and lovely, and Matt signed his name with a flourish, handing back the pen with a smile. "There's my guys," he said when he spotted us. He pulled me into a one-armed hug as he ruffled Kevin's hair. "How're you doing?" I smiled at him. "Good, actually. I'm good today." "Then I have something for you," he said to me. "He….. he asked me to draw it, and told me to give it to you when I thought you were ready." My body went still as my heart clenched, knowing he was referring to Vincent, and wondering why in the world he would give it to me now, in such a public place. Kevin took my hand as Matt offered me a small frame, face down as he always did. I held it like that for a moment, preparing myself, and then turned it over. It was done in pencil - always my favorite medium - and in it, Vincent's beloved face grinned up at me. Scrawled across the bottom, in his hand, were the words, 'smile, goddamnit!' I stared at it in shock for a second, and then snorted out a choked laugh before grinning back at him. If it had said something - anything - remotely sentimental, I'd have lost it big time, but it was so like him that I just burst into laughter. Kevin knew Vincent well enough to appreciate it, and he laughed along with Matt and me. Back in my room at Matt's house, I propped it on the dresser in my room, more somber now, and ran my finger slowly along the line of his cheek before going down to dinner. After the Art Walk, the weather warmed up nicely, and I finally got the urge to go home. The boys were sorry to see me go, and I knew I'd miss being so involved in their daily lives, but I was ready - or so I thought. As we pulled around the drive to the front door, my mind flooded with the memories Vincent and I had made in this house. That night he'd come over when I told him I loved him for the first time, beautiful in his white t-shirt and worn jeans. The day he'd come home from catching Ray - his eye blackened, his head shaved - looking so good to me that I can still see him plain as day. The evening Katie got married - spectacular in his tux, waltzing her around the ballroom at Corleone’s. The morning he'd come home after his father's fatal heart attack, his face drawn with grief, his eyes filling as I took him in my arms, crying against my chest until I thought my heart would break for him. I sat staring at the house until Matt climbed out of the car and came around to open my door. He rested his hand on my shoulder as I stood up next to him, keeping it there as we walked up the steps. At thirty-three, Matt was slender and graceful, his hair still the same soft brown as the skinny, frightened kid Jesse had brought over that day. The time he'd spent studying in Europe had given him an air of sophistication to rival Adam's. Adam was on my other side with his hand in the small of my back, a reassuring touch that I badly needed. I took my keys from my pocket for the first time in months and sorted through them for the correct one, glad that my hand didn't shake too much as I unlocked the door. When I stepped into the hallway, I could feel him all around me. I could almost hear him in the kitchen, puttering with a new gadget, eager for me to try whatever dish he'd made with it, his dark face lighting up when I pronounced it delicious, as I always did because it pleased me to please him. I closed my eyes for a moment to steady myself before walking down the hall. As I passed the door to the den, I knew I would never forget the sight of him sitting on the couch that evening, his dark eyes liquid with sorrow, waiting to tell me that he was gravely ill. "You doin' okay?" Adam asked me gently as we stepped into the kitchen. I nodded, getting a bottle of water from the fridge before I replied. "Yeah….. but I can feel him." Matt smiled a little. "Me, too. I thought maybe it was just me being fanciful, but I feel him here, too." We brought in my bags, and they came up to help me unpack. The sight of our bed stopped me for a second, so I turned to the closet where I hung shirts as Matt handed them to me. When we couldn't find anything else to do, they hugged me and left. I lingered on the porch after they drove off, watching their car disappear around the curve, knowing that going back in the house right away was out of the question. I walked around to the back, avoiding the cabana where we'd spent so many intimate times, and hiked up the hill to my little barn. Calvin had been dead for a few years, and Zena was retired to pasture with some older Foundation horses, but their son, Prada (yes, I was carrying on Amada's tradition of naming horses for fashion designers), snorted at me from the corner stall, his dark bay coat gleaming in the afternoon sun that slanted in through the doors. Without stopping to think too much about it, I tacked him up and jumped on. As we left my property, I urged him up the long slope, standing slightly in the stirrups as he broke into a canter. We topped the hill that overlooks the development - the same hill I'd ridden Calvin up after Dylan had died - and I pulled him to a halt. I stared off into the distance for a while, gazing at the steeple on Stonegate's big barn, wondering if I could settle back into my former life minus Vincent. He wouldn't be happy with the way I'd handled his death. I could almost hear him say, 'Sean, get a grip.' Easy to say, but I knew it would be a difficult next few months. Nothing to do but try, I thought, urging Prada back down the hill. I rode to the stable, gave him a good bath, and went into my office where three months of paperwork was piled in my IN box. Teresa had taken care of the crucial stuff, so I slogged through the rest, pitching most of it in the trash, until my desk was presentable again. That done, I headed out to the yard with a clipboard and did a walk-thru, making notes of things that had fallen behind while I was absent. Tommy and Alejandro had done a good job keeping the place going, but there's nothing like an owner's eye to catch the little stuff. An hour later, I had two pages of tasks that needed doing - everything from sweeping out the tack rooms to repainting the main sign out by the road. Over the next few months, I worked from 6am to 8pm, exhausting myself and getting home in time to eat a bowl of cereal, take a shower and fall into bed. It worked for a while because the days got easier, but night became my enemy. In the darkness, my thoughts turned to Vincent time and again, and sleep eluded me. I wandered the house, his quilt draped around my shoulders, touching the arm of a chair where his hand had rested, seeing him everywhere. My long hours kept the stables in tip-top shape, horses schooled to the top of their form, signs painted, donkeys trained, paperwork done daily, a new barn planned, but still, summer passed slowly that year. June seemed endless; July was hot and humid; August, more of the same. I had friends over for swim parties, they invited me for barbeques; I wasn't a hermit, but I was mostly just going through the motions, saying 'fine' when people asked how I was doing. Late one Wednesday afternoon, when I couldn't find a single thing that needed doing at the barn, I went for a drive that eventually took me past the restaurant. The back stairs to the apartment were long-gone, taken down during the remodel three years ago, and the place hardly looked familiar. On impulse, I parked and went in, intending only to take a quick look around, but Tony's daughter Sonja spotted me. At seventeen, she was the best of the D'Ambruzzo family in female form, with those dark eyes that Vincent had seduced me with that very first night, and a lush, curvy figure. "Uncle Sean." She came around the counter and hugged me. "It's good to see you. Does Dad know you're here?" "No, no. I was just out in the car and ……" I waved my hand vaguely, unable to tell her that I was still looking for Vincent everywhere I'd ever been with him. Corleone's was just one more place that I didn't find him. She pulled out a chair for me and I sank into it, grateful for her understanding. I sat there by myself as she seated a couple for a late lunch. "Sean?" I glanced up into Tony's handsome face, so like Vincent's in many ways, but uniquely his own - the jaw not as heavy, the cheekbones a little higher, the mouth quicker to smile. I gazed at him as he squatted down to talk to me. "How are you doing? Really?" "I miss him so much." My eyes filled, something that hadn't happened in a while, and Tony knelt between my knees to wrap his arms around me. "So do I," he whispered. "Every single day." I lowered my face to his shoulder and sighed deeply, my breath hitching a little. After a few minutes, I sat up and wiped my eyes with the napkin he handed me. Tony took me by the hand and led me to one of the private alcoves. As we passed the kitchen, he rapped out some Italian, and food appeared on our table. I wasn't hungry, but he dished out lasagna without asking me, and it smelled wonderful, so I began to eat. He poured some wine, too - not much, just enough to enjoy with the pasta. As we ate, he chatted about family, filling the silence with stories that finally made me chuckle. During a pause, though, his face clouded and he looked through his wine glass for a moment. "What is it?" I asked him. He looked at me for a second, and then blew out a breath. "I'm getting divorced. I know, I know," he said, holding up a hand as I raised my eyebrows at him. "I didn't want to tell you while ……" he waved the hand in the air. "Anyway, it's been coming for a long time. We haven't been….. intimate in years and I'm moving out….. sometime." "Where to?" He shrugged. "I don't know. I gotta get off my ass and find something. Too bad the old apartment's gone." "Come stay with me." I spoke without thinking, the words coming easily. "I have tons of room, Maria cooks and cleans. Ten minutes from the restaurant. It's perfect." He argued a little, but I could tell he liked the idea, and the first Saturday in September, several of us moved him into the guest room at the end of the hall, the one Danny had lived in with Ryan until they'd bought a house. Knowing Tony was coming had given me some purpose, and everyone stayed for a cookout. Ryan handled the grill while the rest of us milled around munching on Maria's appetizers and talking. Danny came over and sat down next to me, draping an arm over my shoulder. "So, you think you'll like having someone else in the house?" "Well, Tony's like family, so, yeah, I think it'll be good. Give me someone to talk to over dinner. I could use that, and I think he's lonely, too." TJ and Del were late. One of the Foundation horses had been adopted that day, and they were always present when a horse left Stonegate, along with Kelly, who had become my assistant manager. Del ambled over and wrapped me up in one of his trademark hugs, picking me up off the ground for a moment. When he let go of me, I smiled at him, and as he grinned back, I remembered the night we'd met him in Amarillo, gorgeous in his trademark black Stetson as Vincent led him to our table. At forty, he was an extremely good looking man, fit and tan from his active life outdoors. TJ smiled at us from across the patio. He'd become a skilled veterinarian since he'd gotten his degree and taken over vet duties for the Foundation. He and Sam had gone into partnership together, offering their combined vet/farrier skills to the public from an office we'd built for them out by the show grounds, and had been successful right from the start. He was still blond, still beautiful, and if there was a 'Gay Couples' pageant in our part of Texas, he and Del would have won it, hands down. Wade's diagnosis of testicular cancer two years after Dylan's death had taken a toll on all of us. We sat with Cody during Wade's surgery, nursed Wade through the horrors of chemo, and celebrated with them when Wade was finally pronounced cancer-free. Vincent had found the lump one day while fondling Wade in the hot tub, causing all of us for weeks afterward to spend an excessive amount of time probing our scrotums for abnormalities. The whole experience tested their relationship as Cody coped with the possibility of losing Wade by withdrawing right when he was needed most. One or another of us stayed with Cody while Wade was in the hospital, and one night when it was Vincent's turn, Cody finally cracked, talking it out in an all-nighter on the couch. Vincent came home the next afternoon in a pensive mood, shrugging when I questioned him, but later that night, he rolled me over to face him as we lay on the sofa. He made the same request of me that he had just before Dylan’s funeral, only this time, there was desperation in his words. "You better not die on me," he whispered against my mouth, his voice tight with emotion. "I couldn't bear it, so just don't fucking do it." I hugged him, and promised I wouldn't - a promise I kept, though not by choice. Jesse and Ben had retired from their jobs in the city last year and moved into a cabin out in the woods near David and Levi. Neither of them knew anything about living in the country, although I'm sure Jesse could have survived on the moon. They got a dog and had a great time hiking their rolling ten acres, discovering nesting birds and deer trails. The cookout was like so many other parties we'd had over the years that I half expected Vincent stroll out from the kitchen any minute, his white apron low around his hips, a vivid contrast to his brown skin, giving me a wink and a grin through the crowd. That didn't happen, of course, but I was able to smile at the mental image. "Penny for your thoughts," Matt said as he settled into the lawn chair next to me. "What else," I said with a shrug, but then I paused. "But in a good way," I said slowly, realizing that the knot that had been in the pit of my stomach since February was easing, that I was truly enjoying the day, despite the fact that Vincent wasn't there. Matt turned his head slowly to look at me, nodding a little. "Good. I wondered when that would happen for you." He looked away for a moment, then down at the drink in his hands. "I remember the day I finally felt that you were really going to keep me, you and Vincent, that I wouldn't get turned back out on the streets." I stared at him. He had never spoken to me of his early days with us. He had seemed to adjust fairly easily to a life of comparative luxury after his years on the streets, and although I shouldn't have been, I was amazed to hear that he had been insecure with us for a time. "How long was it, until you felt safe?" He was silent for long enough that I thought he wouldn't answer me. Then, "That first Christmas, when you gave me the money. I remember thinking that if I had to leave, at least I wouldn't be so hungry this time." "Oh, Matt……" I touched his cheek with the back of my finger, and he closed his eyes for a second as he leaned into it. Then he pulled back to look at me. "I still have that original bank book, by the way. Actually, what really made me feel like you'd keep me around was when Vincent hung that first drawing I did of the two of you on the wall in the den." "It's still there." "I know." He smiled into my eyes. “For me," I said thoughtfully, looking into the depths of my own glass. "I guess I knew you were a keeper that first day you spent with Ginger in the stable. You were with her.” “I related to her neglect and abuse. I love that horse, and I love you, Sean. I'm glad it's getting better." Tony proved to be a wonderful housemate. I had met him the night I'd met Vincent, so we had seventeen years of shared history, which made for comfortable silences during early breakfasts, easy conversation over late night brandies. We fell into a routine of waiting for each other to get home, then talking about the day as we made dinner or unwound in the den. I think he missed his wife, just as someone to talk to if nothing else, and I certainly missed that, too, so we both looked forward to those quiet evening hours that we spent in each other's company. Christmas was very low-key. Tony's kids spent Christmas Eve with us, coming over after the restaurant closed at 6pm. We ate supper, and then adjourned to the den to open presents in front of the fire. Both kids had been driving assorted family vehicles since they'd gotten their licenses, and Tony had decided to splurge on new cars for them. I pitched in a bit more, so both kids opened small boxes that contained Lexus keys. When the hooting and hollering was over, we followed them to the garage where they climbed into their new rides and headed out. When they'd left, Tony and I poured a last glass of wine and went back to the couch. I was quiet, haunted by memories of holidays past, staring into the fire but seeing only the pictures in my mind. When Tony laid a hand on my shoulder, I jumped and clapped a hand to my chest. He held still for a moment, and then pulled me with him as he lay back against the arm of the sofa, tucking me close to his chest as he put his arms around me. It was almost painfully comforting to be held by someone, and I squeezed my eyes tightly shut as Tony slowly stroked one hand up and down my back. We lay there as the fire burned down to embers, just holding each other. There was nothing sexual about it, no stir of guilty longings or memories of other evenings, just the warmth of the long-standing affection we shared. When the room began to chill, Tony tightened his arms momentarily and then pushed us upright. "Merry Christmas, Sean." I looked at the clock; it was indeed past midnight. I turned to him. "Merry Christmas," I told him, then glanced at the couch. "That was nice." He smiled softly at me. "Yeah, it was." He leaned forward and kissed me on the mouth, a typical Italian kiss that we'd shared dozens of times over the years, but afterward our eyes held for a long second before he got to his feet and pulled me up. "Come on….. bedtime." He held my hand down the hall and up the stairs, letting me go only when he needed to turn left to his room. We went our separate ways, meeting up by chance at the same spot the next morning. He chuckled at me. "Déjà vu all over again." I laughed, and we went down to the kitchen and made breakfast together. He was as good a cook as Vincent had been, although tending more toward American foods at home, claiming that he got enough Italian when he was at work. This morning he made French toast stuffed with cream cheese, pecans, and orange marmalade, accompanied by bacon and home fries. God only knows how many calories were in each bite, but it was Christmas morning, so we threw caution to the winds and dug in. The day was cold and clear, so after we cleaned up the kitchen, we bundled up for a walk around the neighborhood. Things were quiet as we strolled along, enjoying the decorations, waving when someone we knew drove past. About halfway through our jaunt, Tony draped an arm over my shoulders and kept it there until we got home. The casual physical affection Vincent had shown me was one of the things I missed the most, and I think Tony must have known that because from then on he was very affectionate with me; usually with just a touch of our hands, a hug when he felt I needed it, sometimes pulling me back to rest against him when we shared the couch. I made it through the dark days of winter by working hard and spending a lot of time with friends and family, but as the anniversary of Vincent's death approached, things became more difficult. On a particularly bad night in early February, I just could not fall sleep. I lay in bed, listening to my heart thump heavily in my chest, wishing it would simply stop altogether and put an end to this suffering. My head began to throb, and by 2am, I couldn't take it any longer and rolled out of bed to get some aspirin. I fiddled with the lid for a while, but finally got the cuticle scissors out, intending to pry it off. Vincent's long-ago admonition that I'd poke a hole in myself came back to me in a rush, and I hurled the bottle and scissors against the far wall where the plastic grenaded, showering aspirin tablets all over the bathroom. I dropped my head into my hands and sank to the floor, too weary and heartsick to cope. I don't know how long I sat there, my bare ass freezing on the chilly tiles, when I suddenly felt Tony's arms surround me. Without opening my eyes, I burrowed into the warmth of his body, so thankful for the comfort. After a few moments, he lifted me from the floor, wrapped me in a big towel, and sat me on the toilet seat lid. "Did you get any aspirin?" he asked me quietly. When I shook my head, he picked a couple up from the floor, blew them off in his hand and gave them to me with a glass of water, which he held while I took a sip. When I was finished, he took me back to the bed, crawling in behind me and pulling me back against his warm, solid body. This time I fell asleep easily, waking alone in the morning to golden sunlight streaming in the window. On the morning of Feb 16th, Tony eyed me over breakfast. "What are you gonna do today?" he asked quietly as he buttered his toast. I shook my head and shrugged. "I don't know," I replied. "I thought I'd feel worse, and just wanna stay home, but I'm okay." "How 'bout a drive?" I looked at him in surprise. "You don't need to be at the restaurant?" He worked a lot of hours since Vincent was no longer there to share the load. "Not today," he said firmly. "Let's go." I didn't ask what he had in mind as we left the house behind. I just lay my head back on the seat and gazed out the window as the miles streamed by. My mind was full of Vincent, and I was sad that he was gone, but the depression that I'd been prepared for today didn't come. Instead, when Tony put a hand on my knee, I turned to him with a smile. "Doin' okay?" he asked me. "Yeah. Where are we?" "The Sabine," he said, naming a National Forest east of us. It's a beautiful place, and we drove slowly south, enjoying the scenery. Tony kept his hand on my knee, and after a bit, I lay mine over it and left it there until we stopped for lunch. Spring and summer passed, and as autumn chilled the air, I began to truly enjoy life again. The terrible ache of losing Vincent had eased enough to be bearable, and although I thought of him often, it was more with a wistful longing than with pain. I could live with longing. On a cold day in early December, I rode several horses, helped unload a hay truck, and supervised the repairs to the roof of the main barn. By the time I got home, I was frozen clear through. Tony was in the den, feet up to the fire blazing in the grate as I tottered in on feet so cold they hurt. I leaned against the mantel as I pulled off my boots, teeth chattering, and when he reached over to help, his hand grazed mine. "Jesus Christ, your fingers are icy. Come here." He stood up and stuffed my hands under his sweater, wincing at the cold on his bare skin. My palms lay on the triangle of hair on his chest, and as I spread my fingers through it, my left pinkie slid across his erect right nipple. He jerked slightly and sucked in a quick breath. I froze for a second, and then moved my right pinkie a half inch more until I touched the hard nub of his other nipple. Again he twitched involuntarily, and I made a small sound in the back of my throat. "Sean?" His voice was so soft that I wasn't sure I heard him, so I raised my eyes to his, seeing a tangle of emotions in his face - confusion and desire in equal measure. I stared at Tony, the old friend whose constant, steady presence had helped me come to grips with my loss. I swallowed hard and took a deep breath. "Yes," I whispered to him, my own voice not quite steady, and I nodded as I flexed my fingers into the meat of his chest. "Yes." His jaw muscles tensed and his heart began to hammer under my palm as his respiration kicked up. We were still looking at each other as I tilted my head slightly and leaned toward him. His eyes dropped shut, and he shuddered when our lips touched, but he returned my kiss. We were tentative at first, but when I opened my mouth slightly, he followed suit and our tongues touched an instant later. When a groan escaped Tony's throat, a small lick of heat curled deep in my belly, working its way north to my heart and south to my cock. As we kissed, I slid my arms around his waist in a loose hug, and I could feel his erection through our jeans when our crotches bumped. I hadn't even masturbated in months, but his excitement sparked my own, and I felt my cock come to glorious life. He felt it, too, and broke the kiss to breathe open-mouthed as I hardened against him. "Oh, God, Sean……. God, I've waited so long for this." I pulled back to stare at him in surprise, my pulsing erection momentarily forgotten. "For what?" He looked away for a second, then came back to me. "For you. For a chance to be with you." He paused. "If you and Vincent hadn't been so obviously right for each other, I would have done something about it back when we first met." He snorted out a laugh. "You have no idea how many times I beat off over the years thinking about what the two of you were doing together." "Really?!?" I'd never had even an inkling that Tony felt something for me. "But you got married,” I added stupidly. He shrugged. "Yeah, I did. I didn't really think of myself as gay. It was only you I was attracted to, not guys in general." Another pause. "Once I moved in here, I fell for you all over again, but I wasn't sure you'd ever get to a place where I could….. tell you how I felt. Tonight, when you touched me and made that little sound…… Seemed like it was now or never." He shrugged again and fell silent for a moment. "Is it….. Do you think you could ever feel something for me? I mean, I know it couldn't be like what you had with Vincent, but….." "Oh, Tony," I told him. "You've been one of my best friends forever, it seems. I had no idea you…. liked me. I thought you were as straight as they came." My turn to pause. I looked at him carefully, seeing the friend I'd loved for years, the person who'd become an important part of my days, the man who'd just kissed me and made my neglected dick hard. "Yeah,” I assured him with a smile. “Yeah, I could feel something for you." Relief spread across his face in a big grin and he rolled his eyes. "Thank Christ. I was scared to death to say anything to you." His smile faded slowly until he was gazing somberly at me. "Are you warmed up yet?" I nodded. "Good, I gotta sit down." We settled onto the couch as we had so many times since he’d moved in, but tonight was different – tonight there was romance in the air. Tony sat back against the arm of the sofa and I crawled up next to him, lying on my side between him and the back of the couch with my arms around him. After we’d gotten settled I asked him, “You’ve never been with a guy, then?” “Well……..” He was clearly uncomfortable with the question, and it suddenly hit me that he’d been with Vincent at some point in time, something I hadn’t known. I looked up at him. “When?” He looked at me miserably, so I smiled at him. “It’s okay, Tony, I’m just curious when it was.” With a sigh, he said, “I was sixteen, so he must have been nineteen or twenty. He’d been fooling around with boys for years by then, and one day I walked in when he was jerkin’ off up in the apartment.” He smiled and shook his head at the memory. “I was all flustered, but he just patted the couch next to him, so I went and sat down. Next thing I knew, my dick was in his hand, and a couple strokes later, it was over.” He laughed now. “I never came so quick in my life - before or since. Twenty seconds, max.” I recalled my own total lack of control the first time I’d been with Vincent, and Danny’s quick shots in the hot tub. “He had that effect on people.” “Yeah, well, anyway, we did that a couple more times, and one time he sucked me off, but that was it." He made a face. "Sorry.” I squeezed him tighter for a second. “It’s okay. We used to play around with other guys, so it’s no big deal. I just didn’t know, is all.” “You did?” His voice registered total surprise. “Yeah. We discussed it when we got together. Actually, he’s the one who brought it up and said it was okay with him. Just with our friends, though, and always as a couple. Although, that was a little flexible,” I added, recalling Danny in the office and TJ in the tack room. “Do you…. want us to do that?” I pulled back and looked at him. “There’s an ‘us’?” He flushed, but held my eyes. “Fuck, I sure as hell hope so. I’ve been sweatin' bullets working up to this.” I studied his face for a minute as he gazed back at me. “Have you really thought about it?" I asked him. "You’re a business owner, a city councilman. It’s gonna be a big shock to a lot of people. It'll affect Corleone’s. And your kids. Do they have any idea?” He heaved a sigh and pushed my head back down onto his chest. "No, they don't know, and, yes, I've thought about it a lot. I wanna be happy again, and being with you, us being….. a couple, would make me happier than anything I can think of." He stopped talking for a minute because I was kissing him; then he resumed. "What about you? You sure you're ready to do this again? I don't wanna push it, but….." I stopped him with another kiss. "Yeah, I'm ready. I didn't know it till you put my hands on your chest. When you jumped, and I realized it was because I touched you, that kinda woke me up, I guess." We stopped talking then because I'd settled my hand over the bulge in his jeans. He closed his eyes and tipped his head back, moaning as he pushed up into my palm. I kneaded his balls gently, aware of surging emotions that I'd thought had been lost to me forever. Tony had one hand resting on his chest and the other on the back of my neck. He tightened his grip slightly when I whispered his name, then opened his eyes. When he was looking at me, I slid my hand up from his crotch to lay it over his hand. "You and I've been friends for a long time, and you loved Vincent as much as I did," I told him softly. "If there was anyone I could do this with again, it'd be you." He smiled at me a little uncertainly. "That sorta sounds like a 'thanks, but no thanks.’" "Not at all, but you need to be sure. I know what it's like to have people look at me funny, or for a conversation to stop when I show up. You don't. People you thought were your friends will act like you don't exist, or worse. Not many maybe, but some - enough to hurt." I smiled at him to take the sting out of my words. "I just want you to be sure." He stared at me for a long time, expressionless, and when he blinked and looked away across the room, the disappointment was crushing. I'd had no idea how much I wanted to be involved with someone again until I'd kissed him. I was more than ready. I started to push myself up off him, but he turned back to me and gripped my arms. "No, stay here. I know what I'm doing. I want this, Sean. I want you, if you're ready." We stared at each other for a minute, searching, before he pulled me slowly to him. This kiss was hotter, more demanding than our first one, and after a moment, I just let myself go. I dragged my filling cock up his thigh, groaning into his mouth as I hardened. When his hand slid down my back and hesitated just inside the waist of my jeans, I shifted enough to yank my pants open. I moved up him a little more, and when my jeans loosened, he grabbed a handful of my ass hard enough to make me wince. That first intimate contact blew away whatever final inhibitions we both had about doing this, and we fought out of our clothes enough to get a hand on each other's dicks. Tony was a few inches shorter, a few pounds heavier, than Vincent had been, and I felt no similarities as I handled his body. His cock was smooth and bullet shaped, leaking into my hand when I freed it from his shorts. We ended up side by side on the couch, facing each other, thrusting into one another's trembling fists until we both exploded with grunts and growls. The relief and exhilaration I felt in being with Tony was profound. I hadn't realized how much the lack of a physical relationship had been affecting my psyche, and after I got my breath back, I pushed myself up so I could look at him, not surprised to see that his grin matched my own. "God damn, Sean," he said, still breathing hard. He looked down at the creamy smears of our combined cum on his stomach before dropping his head back with a lusty sigh. I settled back in next to him and we lazed there a while, but eventually he began to harden against my hip, and soon he gave me a gentle shake. "Sean. Can we…… go upstairs?" I caught his hesitation, but knew I'd have no problem taking Tony to the bed where I'd last slept with Vincent. We did up our pants enough to walk, and then I took his hand and led him out of the den, up the stairs, and down the hall where my big bed awaited us. We stopped when we reached its foot and looked at each other. "It's okay," I assured him. "He wouldn't mind." Tony studied my face for a moment before nodding. "Yeah, you're right." He unbuttoned my shirt, then tugged my t-shirt over my head, and I pulled his sweater off. I'd seen his body many times over the years, but never with the intentions I now had for it. His skin was the same shade as Vincent's, with an inverted triangle of black hair on his chest. I licked a fingertip and touched it to his left nipple, tapping it lightly and smiling when his eyes went hot and his jaw clenched. "Jesus…." he muttered, as his nipple tightened under my finger. He held my eyes as his hands reached for my jeans, and soon we were both naked, our erections bobbing in the cool air of the room. Tony took half a step back and ran his eyes down my body, ending at my dick, which bounced for him. He looked back up at me, smiling, and then wrapped his hand around my cock. My breath left me in a whoosh, ending in a soft moan that wiped the smile from his face. I tossed the covers back and pulled him down with me, sliding down his body until the tip of his cock bumped my chin. He was on his elbows watching me as I opened my mouth and dragged the flat of my wet tongue up his penis. When I closed my lips and slid back down, he dropped back onto the bed with a heartfelt, 'uhhhnnnnn.’ I gave him a first rate blow job, wanting more than anything for him to be glad about the choice he'd made, and after he'd emptied himself into my mouth and hand, I moved up to straddle his hips. I nestled my crotch down onto his and leaned forward on my hands so that we were face to face. He gazed up at me, calm and trusting, and as I looked at him, he gave me a smile so sweet, so loving, that I took the plunge without a moment's hesitation. "I love you, Tony." His eyes crinkled as his smile widened. "I love you, too. God, that sounded good - say it again." I chuckled and kissed him. "I love you. I've loved you for a long time, just not like this," I said as I wiggled my ass on his semi-hard dick. I don't know if it was because all his prior experience had been with women, or if I unconsciously maneuvered him, but it seemed natural for him to roll us so that I was on the bottom. As he lowered his weight onto me, I lifted my knees to cradle his hips, kissing him and rocking against him as he slowly hardened a third time. Finally, I reached for his cock, pushing it down into the crevice of my ass and pulling my knees further back. He sank back onto his knees, breathing open-mouthed as I positioned him. His eyes came up to mine for a moment, then dropped back down, and he pushed gently against me, too gently, so I gripped his thighs and pulled him in, watching the wonderful range of expressions that crossed his face as he entered me for the first time. It was a good thing he had two orgasms under his belt by then, because I worked him hard, bringing us both to a rolling sweat before letting myself go. It had been a long time since I'd been here, and by the time I climaxed, I was shaking and gasping for air. Tony had gathered me up in his arms toward the end, and held me tight until I began to come down. I'm not sure what he thought fucking a man would be like, but I think it fulfilled whatever expectations he had, judging by the blissed out look on his face as he flopped down next to me. He ran a finger lightly through a puddle of cum on my belly, bringing it to his nose for a sniff, then touching it briefly to his tongue. I watched him, enjoying his curiosity, smiling when he met my eyes and flushed. "Was that….. did I do it right?" he asked, his voice betraying his uncertainty even more than his words. I almost laughed, but he looked so earnest, so worried that he hadn't pleased me despite the evidence splattered all over my stomach, that I smothered it with a noisy throat clearing. "You did it perfectly," I assured him solemnly, meaning every word. "It was wonderful and I love you," I told him again, following it with a kiss. He smelled good to me, different than I remembered Vincent, and I rolled to my side, burying my face in his neck. We fell asleep like that, his arm draped over my ribs, my hand holding his loosely, our knees bumping. In the morning I awoke slowly, easing my eyes open to the pearly gray light of dawn drifting across my bedroom ceiling. After a second or two, I remembered last night and rolled my head carefully to the left. Tony was still asleep, on his side facing me, one hand tucked under his chin and the other spread flat on the sheet between us. His face was peaceful, his breathing even until I placed my hand over his and squeezed lightly. His breath hitched and he blinked sleepily. Please let it be okay I thought as our eyes met. Please. He stared at me for a long moment, long enough for me to think shit, and then he smiled. - - - - - - - 20 years after Vincent first told me he loved me - - - - - - Tony and I have made a good life together these past three years, and I intend to live out the rest of my days with him. He's not Vincent - that was a once in a lifetime love - but he's a strong, loving man who makes me smile and holds me close on dark nights. We enjoy one another, in bed and out, and I love him dearly. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a Vincent in their life. I was. I know what it is to love someone heart and soul, and to be cherished in return. May you be as fortunate. … The End …
  2. Del settled right in to William's house. He and TJ rearranged things at their end of the place so that they slept in the smaller bedroom and used the larger master suite as an office and family room, outfitted with a comfy couch and a huge TV. Having left all his colt-starting customers behind in Loooziana, Del tagged along with TJ to work each day, and began to help with the Foundation horses. We were up to fourteen at the moment, more than Gabriel could keep up with, so Del worked on the roughest ones, getting them to the point where Gabriel could put the finishing touches on them. He was excellent with the tough cases, and by the time he'd been there two weeks, he was an integral part of the team. One evening when they were over for dinner, I talked with him about what he wanted to do, thinking I might hire him, but he said he just wanted to kick back for a while and see how things went. TJ interpreted that comment as meaning that Del maybe wasn't serious about staying and got bitchy with everyone for a few days until they straightened it out. I'd never seen TJ so touchy, but then I'd never seen him in love either, and it was obvious that he wasn't completely sure about Del's intentions. Corleone's first annual April Art Walk was a big success. Vincent and Tony had put a lot of thought into the setting; they’d created a circular paved walkway along the river bank, winding it through the trees, with wider spots here and there dotted with benches and small gazebos. A few short docks were built out into the water with tables out at the ends. Food stations were interspersed amongst the artists' booths, starting with appetizers at the station nearest the entry to the walkway, and progressing through salads, to main courses and desserts. There were several bars, as well, serving a variety of wine, beer, and non-alcoholic drinks. They did a trial run of the food service for friends and family two weeks before the event to fine-tune things, and it went pretty well. Since Vincent was busy running around, I wandered along with my folks, introducing them to Paula and Jack when we ran into them at the bar on the first pier. Katie had taken a part time job at Corleone's and was working the salad station. Most of the guys were there. Matt and Adam had staked out a shady table toward the end of the Walk where they collected friends who passed by. When I came along a little after 4 pm, pretty much everyone was there, lounging around under the trees. Kelly had taken quite a liking to Del, and was sitting near him tossing bread to the ducks that stood in a quacking semi-circle around him. It was a fun day, and the real deal two weeks later went off without a hitch. I drove by in the early afternoon as I made a trip to the feed store, and the place was packed. The additional parking that Vincent had arranged was full, and people were hiking down the side of the road. When I went back just before 6 pm to see how Matt and David were doing, it was even busier. Since most of Matt's work was a little too risqué for a family event like the Walk, he had framed many of the drawings and sketches that he'd done with David over the past year. Despite the fact that he had more commissions than he could handle drawing people's kids, dogs, and horses, he was surprisingly nervous about displaying his wares for the unwashed masses. "God, what if nobody buys anything?" he worried as I helped him one Sunday afternoon in David's studio. I was doing pretty well emotionally, but Vincent was still careful of how I spent my spare time, and since he had to work today, he’d arranged for me to spend the day with Matt. We were choosing frames for some of the larger nature scenes he'd done last summer. I was sorting through frames, trying them against the drawings, and Matt was practically wringing his hands as he paced around the studio. "Honey, relax. I guarantee you people will buy your stuff." I picked up a foot square colored pencil drawing of a scrub jay sitting in a mesquite. The dusky blue of the bird contrasted nicely with the yellow blooms of the bush, and the jay looked like he was about to take off. "Look at this. It's lovely, Matt. They all are." He studied the drawing critically for a moment, and then sighed dramatically. "I hope you're right." I smiled to myself at how much he was taking this little art show to heart, but it was his first one, and I guessed I'd be nervous too. I stopped walking as soon as I could see his booth, watching from a bend in the sidewalk. Matt was making change for a woman and her young daughter. The girl was clutching a small drawing of Ginger in her hands and gazing at Matt as if he'd hung the moon. As they walked away, Matt smiled after them, and then ran his eyes over the crowd. They landed on me for a second, went on by, then came back quickly, and his delighted expression said it all. "I'm almost sold out," he said as I came near, struggling unsuccessfully to suppress a huge grin. "They love the horse ones and the series I did by the creek." He had only a few pieces left, one of which was a favorite of mine. It was a charcoal sketch of Eyeore standing next to the old hand pump behind the hay barn. He was half asleep, and a bird was sitting on his rump, plucking hairs from his fuzzy winter coat. It was a charming picture and I couldn't imagine why it hadn't sold, except that he'd had a lot of donkey drawings. I pulled out my wallet and tried to hand him some bills, but he was appalled that I'd try to pay him for it and thrust it into my hands with an apology. "I didn't know you liked that one. Why didn't you say so? I'd have given it to you back when I first drew it." "I like so many of them that I'd run out of wall space in heartbeat if I took them all. But since you still have this one, I want it." David had done well also, selling several large oils. His sketch book was lying open on the table, and as I leafed through it I began to smile. Page after page of Levi looked back at me - smiling at the viewer; looking partially away with his eyes downcast; asleep on the couch with one arm flung out to the side; laughing with his head thrown back; gazing quietly at me with his face half in shadow. I glanced up to find David watching me. "These are great," I told him. "Just beautiful." He shrugged. "He's a good subject, very expressive, and he just lives every moment like it's his last." He paused, and the smile died from his face. "I didn't think I could still feel like this. It's kinda scary." I put the book down and hugged him. "But wonderful, too, huh?" I spent some time doing a little early Christmas shopping, and was buying a silver bracelet for Vincent when I heard a deep voice in my ear. "And who would you be buying that for, laddie?" With a widening smile, I turned to meet Ryan's twinkling green eyes. "Hey. I didn't know you'd be here. You should've called." We found a vacant bench and talked for an hour until Vincent found us. He was eating an Italian ice and spooned a big bite into my mouth as he sat down, laughing as my face puckered from the lemony tartness. He was very nonchalant as he glanced around, which I knew meant he was thrilled with the day. We sat there as the crowd began to dwindle and the artists packed up. Finally Vincent stood. "Come up to the restaurant.... we'll have dinner." We ate a leisurely supper of appetizers, salad, and bread that hadn't been consumed during the Walk. Tony joined us after he finished running the preliminary numbers for the day, and lifted his glass to me; I looked back at him with raised eyebrows. "To Sean's brilliant idea. The Art Walk was a smashing success.... we did triple what we do on a normal Sunday." We all drank to that, and spent the next hour in pleasant conversation. Ryan was a well-read guy and I really enjoyed his company. Tony excused himself to oversee the final clean-up, and the three of us left for home after convincing Ryan to spend the night again. We headed for the hot tub, with Vincent stepping out of his shorts as we rounded the last bend. Ryan laughed as he flung them on a chair and climbed straight into the bubbly water. Vincent shot him a look. "My fucking feet are killing me," he moaned, holding them up to one of the jets. "I bet I walked fifty miles around that damn sidewalk today." Ryan didn't hesitate in shedding his clothes, giving me my first look at his body. He had an average cock, but uncut, and a nice big set of low hanging nuts that I’d have loved to juggle with my tongue. We spent the next hour soaking and talking. Ryan had been married for a few years in his early twenties, and claimed it had been a good experience. "Taught me a lot about what I really wanted.... and didn't want.... in a relationship." He paused, looking down into the water, "....and it made me a better person to be with.... more tolerant, more open with my feelings." Never having been with a woman, I was pretty curious about his marriage. "Why did you split up?" "It just got to a point where it wasn't fair to either of us to stay together. We're still really good friends. After our divorce, Sharon moved back home. She's a real estate agent in North Carolina." When we went our separate ways in the upstairs hall, Ryan pulled me into a hug. "I'm really glad you're doing better." I turned to say something to him just as he leaned in to kiss my cheek and our mouths met unexpectedly. He pulled back abruptly with an apologetic look at Vincent. "Sorry, I, uh….." "No problem," Vincent said as he quickly kissed a surprised Ryan, "long as I get one, too." He herded me off down the hall, and when I glanced back as we turned into our room, Ryan was still standing there watching us. At the end of April, Danny found me in the hay barn and told me he was moving back into his old apartment. "Things not going well with Gabriel?" I asked him as I counted rows and stacks of alfalfa and orchard grass. "I don't know if it's him or me, but there's just not much of a connection. We had a good time in bed.... for a while.... but that kinda played itself out. He’s a quiet guy - ya never know what he’s thinkin’. I want someone I can talk to, someone….." He shook his head in frustration and shrugged. "Fuck, I don't know. I guess I want what you and Vincent have." He was silent a moment, then, "You suppose that'll ever happen?" "Ah, Danny, you gotta believe it will. Look at Matt and Adam, how they met. They're an unlikely couple.... an orphan street hustler and an aristocrat, but their relationship is really good. Then there’s TJ and Del. That started out as a one-night thing in Amarillo. Took a while, but they ended up together." I put down my clipboard and pulled him to me by the front of his shirt. He clunked his forehead down onto my shoulder and blew out a noisy breath as he tucked his thumbs into the back pockets of my jeans. He lightly squeezed my ass with his fingers as he spoke. "I sure hope so. I'm tired of being by myself. With Del at the house now, him and TJ always playing around... well, it's depressing to watch. That's why I wanna move." I thought for a quick minute before saying, "Why don't you live with us for a while. You can have the whole one end of the upstairs to yourself, and, if you want, you can join Vincent and me now and then." He pulled back abruptly to frown at me. "You serious?" "You had a good time with us last summer, didn't you?" "Yeah," he replied decisively. "I sure as hell did." "Then come stay for a while. You can leave your furniture at the house, if you want." "Well… shit, all right." "Come on over for dinner and just stay." We went our separate ways, and I gave Vincent a quick call to let him know we'd have a house guest. "Cool. How about we do the hot tub tonight?" Then as an afterthought, "He fucks, right?" I told him I was pretty sure he did, and we hung up. The hot tub was where we'd first fooled around with Danny, so I figured I knew what Vincent had in mind. I got home before either of them and threw some left over lasagna in the oven to warm while I sliced a baguette for garlic bread. About five minutes later, Vincent came through the door from the garage with a gleam in his eye and plunked down his briefcase. Then he stepped up behind me, clamped both hands firmly over my crotch, and planted a big, wet kiss on the side of my neck, growling as he chewed on me. I'd given Danny a key, and he walked in just as I was giggling hysterically and struggling to get away from Vincent's roaming hands and busy mouth. He stopped and watched with a big grin on his handsome face, laughing when I begged for help. I still had a butter knife in one hand and a slice of bread in the other, so I threw the bread at Danny and managed to duck out of Vincent's grip. "I'll remember this," I panted at Danny, "when you're bitching about some horse sitting in your lap." We ate on the patio. It was a little cool, but the wine warmed us, along with thoughts of what was still to come. When Vincent pushed his chair back and stood, Danny looked up at him inquiringly. "Hot tub, anyone?" Vincent asked, holding his glass aloft. Danny and I jumped up and followed him down the path to the tub, lit only by the dim lights in the shrubbery. We stripped silently and slid into the water, each of us making a soft sound of pleasure as the warm water enveloped us. Vincent was between Danny and me, with one hand on my leg and the other holding his wine glass. After we’d soaked for a bit, he drained his glass, sat it back away from the tub, and reached over to hold the back of Danny's neck. "Come here," he said, tugging on Danny a little. Danny's eyes caught mine for a second as he moved over to straddle Vincent's legs, facing away from him. Vincent's hands slid down Danny's body until they disappeared into the bubbles, making Danny catch his breath as they settled into his lap. I couldn't see what Vincent was doing, but having been the recipient of many such hot tub crotch rubs, I could well imagine. Imagining was enough to stiffen me up, and I idly played with my cock as Danny leaned back against Vincent's chest and moaned. He must have been pretty excited just thinking about this evening cause it wasn't long before his brow furrowed in concentration. I stood and moved around in front of him, keeping one hand on my dick and tweaking Danny's nipples with the other. That did him in and he arched back against Vincent, his mouth open as he grunted through what sounded like a great orgasm, wincing a couple times as Vincent squeezed his nuts or something. I was smiling at him when he finally opened his eyes. "Geez, when's the last time you got off?" He rolled his eyes and grinned ruefully. "This morning." I laughed at him, but Vincent was ready to go upstairs and get serious, so we climbed out of the tub and walked up to the house, cocks bobbing as we trotted through the chilly night air. In our bedroom, Vincent took the lead again, pushing Danny and me onto the bed, side by side on our bellies. He crawled up from our feet, one hand on each of us, his mouth going back and forth between us. He was in heaven with two butts to work on, and kept Danny and me both happy by using his fingers and his tongue as he shifted from Danny’s ass to mine. Danny and I shifted a little until we could kiss and reach each other's dicks. Getting your ass rimmed by one hot guy while getting kissed and stroked by another is about as close to perfect as it gets, and I felt my brain shutting down as my body lit up. I knew Vincent wanted to fuck Danny, and wasn't surprised when he began to concentrate his efforts on that. I rolled over to watch him work two fingers into Danny's hole, his other hand kneading Danny's white, round ass. He really did have one of the most spectacular butts I'd ever seen, and I reached over to put my hand along side Vincent's, feeling his fingers slide in and out of Danny. On one inward stroke, I added a finger of my own, getting a deep groan from Danny and a scorching look from Vincent as he leaned down to kiss me hungrily. Vincent's cock was drizzling precum like a leaky faucet as he scooted closer and took aim. As he sank slowly in, Danny's closing fists scraped up folds of sheet, and he bared his teeth in a grimace. I ran a hand up his back to rub his neck. "You okay?" I whispered. He just nodded. Vincent was breathing in short little pants by the time he ground his clipped pubes against Danny's ass. Danny had his head buried in his folded arms, moaning softly. I lay on my back, jerking off slowly, watching Vincent's face as he began to move his hips in a steady rhythm. His eyes would close for a few strokes, and then he'd open them to look down at Danny or me before dropping them shut again as his head tipped back. After a while, Vincent tugged my leg to bring me closer. He lifted my ankle to his shoulder, sliding his hand down my leg until he could massage my nuts and poke a finger into me now and then. I reached under Danny to grab his cock, and once Vincent saw that all of us were taken care of, he began to thrust more quickly. Again Danny was the quick-draw king, erupting into my fist with a series of deep grunts. I finished him and then used the same cummy hand on my own cock, staring up into Vincent's face as he watched me. He plunged a finger into me, tickling my hot spot while he pumped quickly into Danny. We came within a few shots of each other, his finger jerking inside me as his body convulsed. When he was done twitching, he pulled out of Danny and crashed onto the bed next to me, his still half-hard cock angled across his belly. "Jeee-zuz," he groaned. We took a quick shower and climbed back into bed, to sleep this time. Danny moved his clothes in the next day, and we settled into a comfortable routine. Vincent and I spent most nights alone, but occasionally dragged Danny up the stairs with us. After the first few days, he relaxed and began to enjoy the little conveniences of having a housekeeper who made your meals and did your laundry. "Shit, Sean, I'd have moved in a long time ago if I'd known it would be this good," he joked one Tuesday morning as we were lounging on the patio waiting for Maria to call us in to breakfast. Less than a week after Danny moved in with us, Gabriel cornered me in the tack room and gave his notice. I tried to find out what the problem was, but he was no more talkative than he'd ever been, and simply said he was ready for a change. Considering his past, I was a little concerned about his future, but I knew it wasn't in my hands. After he left, I sat and thought about things for a while, then tracked down Del, who was longeing a horse in the round pen. "Wanna get on the payroll yet?" I asked him as the horse trotted around. "Doin' what?" "Just what you're doing now, only more of it. Gabriel's leaving, so you'd be in charge of the rehab part of the Foundation. You and TJ'd be running things." I mentioned the salary and that got his attention. He whoa'd the horse, gathering up the longe line as he walked over to me. "I'd need to hire another guy." "No problem," I assured him. "Well, might be.... he's already workin' for ya." I frowned at him as the horse nibbled on my sleeve. "Who?" "Kelly. He's great with the horses." As far as I knew, Kelly cleaned stalls, polished tack, and washed out trailers. I knew he was good with his own horse, Rascal, but it hadn't occurred to me that he had a knack for bringing along the abused Foundation horses. That required the patience of a saint, a lot of psychology, and a good deal of perseverance - not traits that come to mind when you think of a 16-year-old. "Really? What's he been doing?" My faint disapproval must have come through in my voice because Del hesitated for a moment before replying. "I had him help me with that skinny little roan that come in a couple weeks ago. I'm too heavy for her, so I put him on. He was real good with her, had her bendin' and listenin'. Let me use him for a bit.... see what you think." I agreed, knowing that Del and Kelly had hit it off and figuring they'd work well together. That turned out to be the case, and I added Kelly to the Foundation payroll at a hefty pay increase from his stable boy rate. He was thrilled - both with the money and to be working with Del. By the time June was half gone, I was feeling pretty damn good - good enough, in fact, to throw myself the birthday party I didn't have in January. I wanted to surround myself with my closest friends, so we planned a Saturday pool party for just us boys. The day dawned hot and got hotter, making it perfect weather for playing in the water. Everyone was able to make it; Jesse and Ben came for the day, and Ryan drove out from Dallas. He'd become a good friend since we'd met in the aftermath of Dylan's death, and he'd spent a few weekends at the house. He slept in the guest room next to Danny's, and on those nights, we all stayed in our own rooms. The first time the four of us had traipsed down to the hot tub after dinner and stripped, Ryan had done a double-take when he caught sight of Danny's fat cock. No one noticed but me, and during the evening, I caught him giving Danny the occasional speculative look. Ryan was friendly and fun, but so far, he'd kept his hands to himself. He kissed me hello and goodbye, but they were brief kisses, nothing more than affectionate, and he barely hugged Vincent and Danny. I wasn't sure if he felt somewhat inhibited because of his prior relationship with Dylan, or if he was simply taking his time getting to know us. He showed up driving a cherry red SL500, which I saw from the kitchen window as I was filling a tray with crackers. I walked out onto the porch to greet him, wolf-whistling at the car as he climbed out of it. He did an eye roll and then laughed at himself as he joined me in admiring the sleek Mercedes. "And what is this?" I asked him with raised eyebrows and a big smile. "Aww, I got a thing for these," he grinned, "and when I saw this one, I couldn't fucking resist. Is it just totally too much?" "No, no, it's great! Beautiful color. How's it drive?" "Mmm, like it's on rails. I love it." "Well, then……." By this time Vincent was missing me, had spotted the car, and everyone was milling around it. We all agreed it was spectacular, and Ryan looked a little more comfortable with it by the time we went back out to the pool. It was a great day; everyone was relaxed and in a good mood. No one commented on Gabriel's departure, and I concluded that he'd made no real friends among us. We ate, played in the water, lay around in the sun, ate some more, and finally did one last hot tub session after it got dark. The dim light from the garden lamps cast soft shadows on our faces, and made the secluded hot tub area seem even more private than usual. We were all a bit quiet; maybe from an afternoon of sun and play, or maybe from something a little deeper. In any case, it was a while before anyone spoke, and then it was Danny. He was sitting next to me on the edge of the tub, his legs on one side of Vincent, mine on the other. "Well, my daddy stopped by the barn yesterday, and allowed as how having a queer kid might not kill him after all." I swung my head to smile at him, and he grinned back at me. I was probably the only one there who knew how much it meant to Danny to be close to his father again. Ryan looked at him curiously. "You just came out to him recently?" "Hell, I just came out to myself recently." He told Ryan the tale of the pre-nuptial blow job, our kiss on my wedding day, his first time giving head in this very hot tub. When he was finished, Ryan glanced at me. “Thanks,” he said. “For what?” I asked him. “Sounds like you’re the reason Danny’s here today.” “Ah, he would have figured it out.” “Maybe not,” Ryan remarked. “Lotta guys don’t.... not without someone they’re comfortable with to get things started that first time.” I glanced at Danny, who shrugged, then said, “That had a lot to do with it, I admit. I trusted Sean. I figured he wouldn’t tell anybody, and he probably wouldn’t kill me when I asked him to blow me.” “I almost did,” I said, thinking back to that day and how pissed I’d been that he just assumed I’d leap at the chance, although I was dying to once I got over the surprise. We talked some more about making that first connection, and told our own stories. For some, it was just a chance encounter in a bathroom or parking lot; others, it was a seduction by someone more experienced; and for some of us, it was a mutual thing between friends, like Danny and me. The party broke up soon after that, and as the last set of tail lights disappeared around the bend in the lane, Danny said good night and went upstairs. Vincent took my hand and we walked down the hall to the kitchen, collecting the odd glass along the way, and cleaned up a little. As I was wiping down the sink, Vincent came up behind me and nuzzled the back of my neck. I put the sponge down and turned to him, holding his hips as he settled his crotch into mine. He humped me slowly for a minute or so, then took my face in both his hands and pulled back to look at me. His eyes roamed over my features, lingering on my mouth before coming up to meet my gaze. As we looked at each other, I smiled at him, but he remained somber. After looking at me for a long time, he spoke softly. "I love you, Sean. I know you know that, even though I don't say very often, but it doesn't begin to cover what you mean to me." He paused, running his thumb gently along my bottom lip before saying, "You are my heart beat." It was such a stunning statement of how he felt about me that I was speechless. Our gaze held a bit longer, and then he kissed me lightly. "Let's go up to bed, sweetheart." I put my arm around his waist as he draped his over my shoulder, and as we stepped out of the kitchen, I reached over and flipped off the light.
  3. Early on the first day of the trial the three of us climbed into the car I'd hired. The federal courthouse was an hour away, and I didn't want us to have to cope with our emotions and traffic by driving ourselves. I’d thought about taking hotel rooms for a few days, but the comforting familiarity of our own home seemed like a better idea. Despite knowing that Ray would be in the courtroom with us, it was still a shock for Matt and Vincent when he was led in. Matt glanced at him and quickly looked back at me for reassurance, his eyes wide and frightened. I put him between Vincent and me, holding his sweaty hand, and wishing irrationally that Ray had somehow died before this ever came to trial. Vincent stared him down, holding his gaze until Ray looked away. There was a fierce resolve in Vincent that I'd never felt from him before. From the moment we'd awakened that morning, he had been focused and intent. He was sweet to me, knowing that I was dreading this, but he was distant, and I knew his thoughts were elsewhere. I'd never seen Ray before, and I was struck by how ordinary he appeared until he met my eyes. His cold, flat stare prickled the hairs on my arms, and I studied his face, wondering at a person who could do the things I knew he’d done. I reached across Matt for Vincent's hand, praying that the trial went quickly and smoothly, so that we could get back to our lives. The three of us sat there, taking comfort from each other and waiting for things to get started, when I felt a hard hand settle onto my shoulder. Jesse's face appeared between Matt and me, hugging us together so that our faces pressed to his. Having him there was a huge relief. I knew that Ray couldn't get to us, but Jesse's solid, capable, kick-ass presence was just what we needed. "Thank you," I whispered to him. He gripped my shoulder more firmly for a second, and then shifted over to talk to Vincent. I watched relief flood across Vincent's face, and I felt that twinge of jealousy that comes from knowing - no matter how much you love someone - that you simply cannot be everything they need. Adam was not in the courtroom at Matt’s request. A few days before, I’d told Matt that Adam could ride with us, but Matt said he wasn’t coming. I looked at Matt questioningly until he finally replied. “I just don’t want him there. I’ve told him a lot about what happened to me before, but I don’t want him to hear it all again - like that.” So it was just the three of us, and Jesse. The morning passed slowly as we listened to judge's instructions and opening remarks from both prosecution and defense. I watched the defense lawyer, wondering what Ray could possibly have said that would make him sound innocent. At one point the DA began talking about a man who had been a victim as a child, and fifteen years later, had been instrumental in Ray's arrest. I suddenly realized he was talking about Vincent, and turned to him as he took a deep breath, his jaw tight. They called Vincent's name halfway through the second day. He squeezed my leg briefly, and took the witness stand, speaking calmly as the DA ran him through events leading up to the night he'd met Ray. The defense attorney voiced a barrage of objections about the DA leading the witness. Some intense arguments between the DA, the desperate defense attorney, and the judge ensued, and after the judge threatened the defense attorney with contempt, things calmed down. As Vincent began to describe how Ray grabbed him into the car that first night - a skinny seventeen-year-old struggling against a grown man who outweighed him by fifty pounds - his voice tightened perceptibly. He paused when he came to the physical details of the rape, and I could see him gathering himself for the horrors that lay ahead. I watched as he described in excruciating detail how Ray had torn him open, and then left him bruised and bloody on a street corner at three in the morning. I felt light-headed and hollow as Vincent told about bleeding for three days, too terrified and ashamed to tell anyone, wrapping his bloody underwear in newspaper before stuffing it in the bottom of the garbage can. Hearing what I knew to be an act of brutal violence reduced to clinical, courtroom-acceptable terms such as 'erection' and 'anus,' somehow made it even more awful, if that was possible. I glanced at the jury; each of them was riveted to Vincent's face, their expressions showing various stages of revulsion and disgust. I wondered for a moment if that was due to the homosexual nature of the rape, or simply because it was an act of violence against a boy not unlike some of their own children. The DA moved on to the point in time when Vincent broke off his relationship with Ray, asking him what had been his motivation to make the break. Vincent had been looking at the DA, but now he turned to me and locked onto my eyes. "I met someone and fell in love. I knew then that I had to get away." I stared at Vincent as a smile spread across my face. Knowing that he loved me was one thing; hearing him announce it in a courtroom full of strangers, with a court reporter taking it all down word for word, was quite another. He held my gaze for a long, intense moment before turning his attention back to the DA. Vincent went on to describe the day he was attacked at our house. Ray and two of his guys had jumped him as he let himself in the side door from the garage. They'd ripped his clothes off as they dragged him down the hall. At this point Vincent's torn shirt was held up as an exhibit. I looked at it, vividly remembering that day I’d found it at the bottom of the stairs and realized something was truly wrong with Vincent. As Vincent described his injuries from that day, slides were shown on a large screen. The first one was of Vincent's wrists, deeply scored and bleeding from the yellow rope that had been embedded in his flesh. The second one was a photo of his back, marked with the oozing black burns. The third one was a close-up of the worse burn, seared a quarter inch deep into his body; the skin crisp, black, and curling around the edges. As I looked at those larger-than-life pictures, the horror of that afternoon swept over me. "Oh, God," I moaned softly as Matt stared at the screen in sick fascination. He'd heard the story from Vincent while they were still in Dallas, but the photos were graphic evidence of just how bad it had been. Matt began to shake, and I struggled to get myself under control so that I could comfort him. Jesse clamped a hand on the back of my neck, and wrapped his other arm around Matt with his hand spread over Matty's chest. I closed my eyes, concentrating on the warmth of his firm grip, and after a moment, it was enough to steady me. Matt had turned to rest his head on Jesse's arm, and seemed to be calming down a little. As I looked at his pale, shaken expression, I began to get very concerned over how he would cope when it was his turn in the witness box. Vincent was on the stand for four solid hours. The defense attorney never interrupted his testimony again and I listened to every word Vincent said. He spoke of the aftermath of the attack, how it had affected him emotionally, how it began to erode our relationship. Watching him relive the worse days of his life changed something in me. As I listened to Vincent tell his sordid tale, listened to the tremor in his voice, I began to hate Ray with a smoldering intensity I hadn’t thought I possessed. No matter what punishment he was given, it wouldn't be enough to atone for the atrocities he had inflicted on the man I loved. When the now subdued defense attorney was finished with Vincent, he stood up and took a long slow look at every person in the jury box. Then he turned to stare at Ray for a moment before looking away in disgust. He sat back down next to Matt, but reached across him to grip my hand hard. Vincent was quiet on the drive home, staring out the window, lost in thought. Matt wasn't in much better shape, sitting close to me with my arm across his shoulders. Adam met us at the house, hugging Matt wordlessly as we went into dinner. Maria had come back for the evening to take care of us, quietly serving us beef stew and warm homemade bread with apple pie for desert. Comfort food meant to take our minds off our troubles. Vincent barely spoke through supper, and afterward he led me past the den straight up to our room. His face was tired and sad as he undressed and crawled under the covers. We curled up together, letting the closeness of our bodies work its magic on our damaged spirits. He was silent for a long time, and then he finally whispered to me, "Tell me that you still love me after hearing that filth today." "Oh, Vincent - I love you." I nuzzled into him as he crushed me to him. “I love you.” He was trembling, and I tried to wrap myself around him, rolling onto him when he turned onto his back. “I will always love you.” We lay there a long time, our bodies touching from face to toes, and Vincent gradually relaxed. I dozed a little bit, but woke to the pressure of Vincent's cock hardening into my belly. I raised my head. It was dark now, but the moon was full, and in its milky light I could see Vincent looking at me, his dark eyes troubled. "I need you, Sean." His voice was low and thick with desire, and it surged through me, ending in a burst of heat in my crotch. As he spoke, his erection throbbed between us. I sat up and straddled his hips, trapping his cock behind me so that it pressed along the cleft of my ass. I rose and fell just enough to drag the head of his dick across my hole, and it wasn't long before we were both precum-slick and breathing hard. I braced my hands on either side of Vincent's shoulders and kissed him deeply as he reached between my legs to slide a finger into me. I shuddered with pleasure when he pumped it a few times. With his other hand, he reached under me to grasp the base of his cock. He began to push it slowly into me alongside his steadily pumping finger, and I arched my back as the sensations intensified. We never broke eye contact as the full length of him eased home. At some point, he'd removed his finger, and now I could feel the veins and ridges of his penis as he moved ever so slowly back out of me. With just the head of his cock in my ass, I leaned down and kissed him. I've kissed Vincent in so many different ways, times, moods, and settings that I would have sworn I knew his mouth as well as I knew my own, but this kiss was different. Hungry, passionate, a little desperate - it was full of the tension of the day, and the relief of being alone together, safe in our bed, connected as intimately as we could possibly be. As we kissed, he slid back into me, so that the kiss ended with us moaning into each other's mouths, almost vibrating with desire. We stayed like that for a long time, moving slowly against each other, kissing, saying 'I love you' into the hush of the night. Vincent touched my face often, his warm palm pressed to my cheek, his gentle finger tracing the line of my jaw. His nipples hardened under my hands as I rubbed his chest, and his cock danced inside me when I lightly pinched one. Then he caught my wrists, pulling me down to lay flat on him. His heart thudded against my ribs, beating out the rhythm of his increasing arousal. I began to feel like I could stay there forever - Vincent buried deep, our hands and mouths on one another. We've made love in all manner of ways in the years since we'd met - slow and loving; rowdy and noisy; sweet and playful; bruising and a little mean. All had their particular charms at the time, but gradually I realized that tonight was something we'd never experienced together. Tonight our aching souls were finding solace in the joining of our bodies. Suddenly he began to thrust strongly into me. He gripped my hips with steely fingers, slamming me down onto him as his breathing changed from the hard pants of excitement to the beginning gasps of tears. As he began to climax, he finally started to cry - three hard, choking sobs that held all the hurt and fear and outrage that he still carried with him. I held him tight, and soon he quieted to shuddery breaths that blew warm and moist against my neck. "Jesus," he murmured, his voice hoarse with exhaustion. "It frightens me how much I need you." "Go to sleep, sweetheart. I'll be right here. I'll always be right here." I kissed him and wiped the tears from his face as he rolled onto his side and backed into me. For one of the few times in our relationship, we fell asleep with me holding him. My right arm was under his neck, and my left was wrapped around him with my hand on his chest. As he started to drift off, he took my wrist and slid my hand down his belly to cup his testicles. He kept his hand over mine, pressed firmly into him, until sleep took him. I lay awake for a long time, listening to him breathe, feeling his body relax against me. Until now, I had always felt as though I needed Vincent more than he needed me, an imbalance common to most relationships, I suppose. But tonight, kissing him, looking into his eyes as he pumped slowly into me, I knew that he needed me just as much. I brushed my mouth over the back of his neck, breathing him in, before letting myself drift away. I woke at 3am, suddenly aware that something wasn't right. Vincent was breathing peacefully as I eased out of bed, dragged on shorts, and stepped into the hall. The door to the guest room was open, so I walked silently to the end of the hall and peeked in. Adam was alone in the bed, sleeping as deeply as Vincent. I backtracked to Matt's room, but it was empty. Concerned now, I trotted down the stairs, and padded along the hall to the den. He was there, huddled under a quilt in his favorite chair. He lifted his head when I came into the room, but didn't say anything, just watched me with haunted eyes. I brought him to his feet and into my arms, hugging him until he relaxed a little. Then I led him back upstairs to our room. Vincent woke up when Matt slipped under the covers, pulling him close as I put my arm over them both. None of us spoke, we just held each other, nuzzling and kissing a little until we dozed off. I left our door open so that Adam could find Matt if he woke up before we did. When we got up at seven, Adam was gone, watching over things at the barn while I was tied up with the trial. Matt showered with us before going to his own room to dress. He was quiet, but returned my encouraging smile as we ate breakfast. We made it through the next two days by spending pretty much every moment together. I don't know what Matt said to Adam, but the second night he was there to greet Matt when we got home, and then left after supper. Matt stayed close to Vincent or me in the evenings, watching when one of us left the room, keeping a hand on whichever of us he was sitting with. It was reminiscent of his first few weeks with us when he needed all the love and reassurance we could provide. At night, we all climbed into our big bed, arms and legs over one another. There was no sex after that first night between Vincent and me - we simply needed to be together. Witnesses came and went as the evidence mounted against Ray with every word. The judge never allowed the defense attorney too much latitude with his objections or his cross-examinations. After lunch on the fourth day of the trial, they called Matt's name. He looked at me before he stood up. "I love you, and I'm right here," I told him. Vincent hugged him, and then he was alone in the witness box. The DA was careful with Matt, but having to go through it all in public was horrible for him. As he told about one of his foster fathers coming into his bedroom at night for the first time when he was all of eleven years old, his eyes filled. The next time he blinked, a fat tear spilled over, trickling down his cheek until it dripped off his chin. He never broke into sobs, but he never stopped crying either, wiping his cheeks now and then with a trembling hand until the judge motioned to the clerk to hand him a box of tissues. It was almost impossible for me to watch, and the only thing that kept me from leaping over the rail was Vincent's arm across my shoulders. He gripped my upper arm firmly, holding me close to his side for two and a half hours until the DA and the defense attorney were finally finished with Matty. It was late afternoon, so the judge recessed court for the day. We took Matt straight to the car, huddling together in the back seat as the driver sped us homeward. Matt sat with his eyes closed, leaning into Vincent as I held his hand and talked softly to him. He didn't speak for a long time, and I was starting to get worried when he sat up a little and sighed. "Fuck," he said, in a tone of such relief that I had to smile. "I'm sure glad that's over." He settled back against Vincent's body with his eyes closed, and I wondered if this would have a lasting effect on him. As usual, Adam was waiting for us when we got home. Matt climbed out of the car into Adam's arms, and they walked into the house. Vincent watched the driver pull back into the lane, and then turned to me. "You okay?" I nodded. "Yeah, but I just want it over so badly.” He sighed as he gathered me into his arms. "You and me both, baby." The trial lasted a little over two weeks. We didn't attend again until the last day. It was weird knowing that it was going on without us, but we tried to get back to everyday life. When Danny came out to shoe that next Tuesday, I held horses for him, simply because I couldn't really concentrate on paperwork with any accuracy. After he finished the third horse, he turned to me. "You're pretty upset, huh?" I looked at him. Of course I was upset, and he knew that, so I figured he had something else in mind. "What makes you think so?" "You ain't looked at my ass once all day." He grinned as he said it, and it made me happy that he could joke about something that used to make him uncomfortable. "You're right - I don't know what the fuck's the matter with me. Turn around." I grabbed his arm, and he wrestled away, but I got a hand on him again, and this time I pulled him to me. As soon as he realized that I was coming apart, he stopped fooling around and wrapped his strong arms around me. As he held on, I fought the rush of relief that surged through me, exhaling hard and sucking it back in before it could turn into sobs. After a few minutes, I was okay and pulled away from him a little. He eyed me before dropping his arms and stepping back. "Thanks." I waved my hand at all the emotion hanging in the air. "Sorry." "Don't worry 'bout it. You been there for me a couple times now." He picked up his box of rasps and nails and added, "Got another horse for me?" We went back to work, and when we were finished, I talked him into coming back to the house for dinner. As we were about to leave, Gabriel jogged over to my car. "Damn it, I meant to catch you before you left. We got an offer on Barney." That was good news and I wanted to talk it over with him, but Danny was idling in his truck behind me and Vincent had dinner warming in the oven. "Get in," I said, pushing the door open on his side. "You can tell me over dinner." Matt grabbed two more plates from the cupboard, Vincent pulled a big pan of manicotti from the oven, and the five of us dug in. Gabriel was excited over the prospect of adopting out our first rescue, and he talked all through dinner about the family who first saw Barney when they came out to pet the donkeys. They had a daughter who was ready to move up from her aging pony, and they thought Barney might be the horse. Gabriel thought so, too, and his excitement was contagious. Danny watched him with a smile, and during a lull in the conversation, volunteered three free shoeings for every rescue horse that got adopted. Gabriel clapped a hand on his shoulder, giving him a shake as he said, "That's great, thanks. Can you make me a certificate or something that I can give to them with the final paperwork?" "Uh, not really," Danny replied, looking like he wished he hadn't opened his mouth. "I do horses, not computers." "I'll make one up," Matt said, "I like doing that kind of stuff." We finished the evening with chocolate éclairs and coffee in the den. Danny was beginning to feel at home with us, kicking off his boots without being urged, and returning the touches and hugs Vincent and I gave him. Matt was affectionate with him also, greeting him with a hug and a kiss on the cheek whenever he came to the house. Matt was a sweetie, but he usually reserved the physical stuff for Adam, Vincent, and me. I don't know if he sensed some need in Danny, or simply liked him enough to give a little more of himself. In any case, Danny enjoyed it, smiling every time one of us touched him. "I'll give you a ride back to the barn," I said, when Gabriel stood to go. "I can drop him off," Danny offered in a casual tone. I glanced at him, and he met my eyes for a second before looking down to pull on his boots. I turned back to Gabriel. "That okay with you?" "Sure. I don't care how I get there," he chuckled. "See you tomorrow." I watched them leave with a thoughtful expression. That weekend we stayed around the house. The weather was nice, so we spent the afternoons by the pool, browning slowly in the warm Texas sun. Saturday morning when Katie came over, she took her cue from our quiet moods and stayed close to Matt. She left the house early, and showed up a couple hours later riding Zena and ponying Chex. She and Matt rode in the late afternoon, heading down to the stream to wade and play horseback tag in the meadow. Sunday morning we were sitting around the kitchen, working on our first cups of coffee, and deciding what to make for breakfast. Katie was subdued, and as she and I were chopping vegetables for an omelet, I asked her if something was on her mind. She glanced back at Matt, and then turned to me. "I wanna ask Matt to my prom, but I don't think he knows how to dance." I flashed back to Matt grinding around the dance floor in Amarillo, shimmying up behind TJ with his shirt off, his slender body slick with sweat. That started to give me a hard-on, so I pushed the thought away, and it wasn't the kind of dancing Katie was referring to anyway. "Uh . . . Matt can dance. Fast, anyway. I'm not sure about slow dancing, waltzing, or any of that stuff. But Vincent and I can teach him. Actually, that'll be fun - go ask him." She did, he said 'yes,' and we spent the morning dancing in the den. Matt liked to dance and picked up slow dancing quickly, twirling Katie past the piano as she laughed up at him. We taught them a few fancy moves, including a dip at the end, which Matt did with a flourish, swooping Katie so far down that her hair brushed the floor. Then we waltzed, a dance I love, but one that neither Katie nor Matt knew. I danced with Katie, and Vincent with Matt, until they understood the steps, then we switched partners. Waltzing slowly around the den in Vincent's arms was lovely. We smiled into each other's eyes, our hands clasped together, his arm warm across my back. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed dancing with him, and smiled a thank you at Katie. After they ran off to swim, Vincent put on a Frank Sinatra CD. He held me close, his leg between mine, and thrust slowly along my thigh as we moved around the room. By the second lap, we were both hard and breathing heavier than the dancing accounted for. He swung us by the door, locking it with one hand as he slid the other down my back to hold me tight. Still moving slowly in place, he began to undress me, which didn't take long since I was wearing only boxers and a t-shirt. As he dragged my shorts down, he sank to his knees between my feet, and began to lick and kiss and chew his way up my left thigh. My hands settled onto his shoulders, and I watched as he neared my balls. A big drop of precum welled from my slit as he opened wide and sucked them into the wet heat of his mouth. After a moment, I pulled free and joined him on the floor, pulling him onto me as I lay down. As our cocks bumped together, I shut my eyes and concentrated on Vincent. He had worked up a light sweat from dancing, and the taste of him as I mouthed his neck made me a little crazy. When I growled into his ear, he began to thrust more quickly. In a strained voice he muttered, "I hope you're close, cause I'm gone." With that he ground his cock into my belly and pumped out hot spurts of thick, fragrant cum. As it bathed my dick in slippery warmth, I arched back into the carpet with a groaning shudder. We were pressed so tightly together that my cum squished out sideways and trickled down my side. Vincent slid - literally - off me and we lay there until our respiration returned to normal. Finally, he got to his feet and tugged me up with both hands. "You're a fucking mess," he laughed, running a finger up the long streak of cum trailing down my leg. I unlocked the door, and stuck my head out into the hall to make sure the coast was clear. We dashed upstairs, giggling the whole way, and scrubbed each other clean in the shower. It was a wonderful start to the day. The next Tuesday, Danny came home for dinner without too much coaxing, and I hoped it would just become an automatic thing. It was really satisfying to me to watch him become more and more comfortable with the knowledge that he was gay. We have a subscription to Men magazine, and that evening Danny picked up the current issue and thumbed through it while we were sitting around the den. I watched his face as he examined the photos, smiling to myself when one eyebrow went up a notch, or he shifted a few times in his chair. Finally, he shoved a hand down his jeans for a quick adjustment, rolling his eyes at me as he did so. "I never seen this on the rack down to the Food Mart," he commented as he lay it back on the table. "No shit!" Vincent snorted. "That's probably the only copy between here and Dallas." I always hugged Danny when he went home, and tonight, for the first time, he reached for me first as we neared the door. As I stepped into his embrace, he put his cheek next to mine and spoke softly near my ear. "I gotta thank you for keeping after me. I never woulda got here by myself." I hugged him tighter. "My pleasure. I figured it had to be better than what you were going through that day." "Yeah. Still gotta tell my old man, but if he don't like it, tough." He sighed, kissed me goodbye, and headed back to his small apartment on the edge of town. I wandered back to the den, tugged the book from Vincent's hand, and crawled onto him. He regarded me somberly for a moment through his reading glasses before taking them off and laying them on the coffee table. He scooched down so that our faces were even, shoved his leg between mine, and kissed me until I forgot completely about anything except the feel of his hand on my ass and his tongue down my throat. On the day of sentencing, we made a show of force - all of our friends and family filed into the courtroom, filling two rows. My folks and Vincent's were there, along with Paula, Jack, and Katie. But I got a real surprise when a guy in a dark suit slid in next to Wade. He caught my eye with a wink, and I realized with a jolt that it was Danny. He looked wonderful - his dark hair slicked back, his suit coat enhancing his shoulders - and I gave him a warm smile. Just as I turned away from Danny, I saw Amanda step into the room. She was dressed in a dark pink suit, cut to emphasize her figure, and every man in the room watched her sashay down the aisle. She stepped into the row behind us, moving past Danny, Wade, Cody, and Gabriel to sit behind us. She leaned forward and whispered, "I bought this suit just for today. Perfect color, huh?" I agreed that it was. When the jury filed back in, every single one of them looked to where Matt, Vincent, and I were sitting. I knew that was a good sign, and sure enough, Ray was convicted - multiple sentences of forty to life with no possibility of parole. He would die in prison. Everyone came back to our place for a celebration. We opened bottles of champagne and drank to the criminal justice system. Maria had gone all out with plates, bowls, and trays of food all over the kitchen, so we took off our jackets, loosened our ties, and had a drink. Katie and her folks hung around until my parents left, followed soon after by Vincent's parents, and then it was just us boys. By seven that evening, we were sprawled around the den in various stages of inebriation and undress. Matt was the only one sober, and he was curled up in his chair with a sketch pad on his knee, drawing god knows what, wearing only his socks, his boxer briefs, and his dress shirt, unbuttoned halfway down his chest. Several of us - Vincent, Danny, TJ, Jesse, Ben, and me - had gotten down to our undershirts and slacks, and were barefoot. I was laid out on the couch with my head in TJ's lap and my feet in Vincent's. He had his hand up my pant leg, and was gently stroking the soft skin behind my knee. Now and then he'd increase the pressure for a second and I'd glance at him. He'd hold my gaze for a moment before smiling at me. Every time he did that, my chest tightened, and I had to breathe deeply a few times to keep from choking up. Danny was sitting on the floor with his back against the couch near my hip. My hand was dropped onto his chest, and I had tucked two fingers inside the neck of his undershirt, curling them through his chest hair. He was holding my wrist snugly, dropping his chin to rest it on my arm now and then. Everyone else was in a chair or on the floor, singly and in pairs. We had gone through all of Maria's food by that point, and had ordered five large pizzas. When they arrived, we sent Matt to the door in his shirt and shorts. He came back with the pizzas and a grin, handing Wade back his twenties. "Pizza guy said 'congratulations' from the manager." We switched to soda and iced tea, made short work of the pizzas, and by ten everyone, including Adam, was sober enough to drive home safely. Matt, Vincent, and I walked upstairs holding hands, and climbed into bed together. I knew I needed to talk to Matt about what was going on with him and Adam, but not tonight. We kissed each other good night, Matt curled into me, I curled into Vincent, and we all fell asleep. We never mentioned Ray’s name again.
  4. January had a few other high points. Matt was doing excellently with his schoolwork, and the tutor said she wouldn't be surprised if he was ready to take the exams by April. He was eager to have it behind him, so I cut him loose from his Stonegate job to stay home and study those two days each week. Maria loved his company and they became very close, which pleased me. Even Although Matt seemed at home with Vincent and me, I knew it was good for him to have women in his life to give him that bit of maternal nurturing that living exclusively with men – even men who loved him – simply didn't offer. Between Maria and my mom, he was getting a healthy dose of it. He went over to my folks' house at least once a week for dinner, hanging out till bedtime. He helped my dad with stuff around the place, and always came home with half an apple pie or a big bowl of pudding with Vanilla Wafers and bananas. Between Christmas and New Year's, Matt had studied the hell out of the rules of the road on a website he found and spent several days driving all over the lanes and pastures of Stonegate until he felt comfortable behind the wheel. He got his license on the first try and proudly drove us to Starbucks for a celebratory mocha. I wondered if he'd be out all the time now that he was mobile, but things didn't change much. He mostly just drove himself to school and came home, stopping occasionally at Corleone's to see Vincent or at Stonegate for a quick visit with Ginger. A few days after Christmas, we'd gone to the only art store in town and bought more types of pencils, charcoals, paints, brushes, inks, pens, and paper than I would have believed existed if I hadn't seen them with my own eyes. We also got a lovely maple case to haul it all around in, and he spent hours that evening arranging everything neatly in the little compartments. I sat on the couch with Vincent watching him ruffle the soft hair of a sable brush in the crook of his elbow, smiling at him when he looked up and caught me at it. The nearest art school was too far away to be practical, but we learned of a talented local amateur painter who was plenty good enough to give Matt a solid start. I didn't know much about the guy except that his name was David and that he lived in a log cabin out in the pines with a big dog named Bonnie. Matt and I drove out to meet him one afternoon and spent an interesting hour looking at his work and chatting with him. His large, sunlit studio sat on the banks of a creek that gurgled through his property. The studio was full of his work - a lot of beautiful nature scenes, many with animals of some sort – and an occasional portrait. We came to a financial agreement, and they spent every Wednesday in David's studio or out in the open air if the weather was good. Matt came home with lovely little pastel studies of water rippling over rocks in a stream, or a delicate charcoal drawing of pine trees along a ridge. I began to tack them up in the kitchen, and soon we had a little gallery of his work that I looked at often. When Wade offered Matt $50 for a small watercolor of a bird sitting in a dead tree to have framed for his office, I began to take a closer look at them. He really was talented, and an idea began to percolate around in the back of my mind. I finally got seriously to work on the show grounds. I hired a contractor, and every day you could hear the roar of machinery as the bulldozers moved dirt around to create two slightly sunken arenas with slopes up from each side for spectators to sit on. We made a large graded area for rigs to park in, and had plans drawn up for a cinder block building to hold the show offices, a judges’ room, a concession stand in one end, and bathrooms. While all this was going on, TJ called one day. "I need a hand. Can you send someone with a two-horse rig? I'm out here in just my truck." "Sure. Where are you?" "The old Walton place, out 76 just past the bridge." "Yeah, I know it. What've you got now?" He just chuckled. "You'll see." I almost hollered for Tommy, but then remembered TJ and Gabriel talking in the yard a few weeks ago and tracked down Gabriel, who was working with Ginger. “Go out to the old Walton place with the two-horse and find TJ.” His face lit up and he put Ginger away quickly, hitched up the trailer, and was out of the yard in five minutes. I watched him drive off, wondering if I was aiding and abetting, then deciding they’d figure it out. An hour later, I heard them coming even before I could see the dust from the truck, but I couldn't tell what the hell I was hearing. I'd been walking across the yard, and stopped to listen. As I realized what it was, I started to smile, and by the time they pulled to a stop in front of me, I was laughing out loud. TJ and Gabriel met at the back of the rig, and they were both grinning at the squeaks and honks coming from the trailer. TJ opened one door, and a shaggy little creature hopped out onto the dirt, followed by another and then by a third. The noise tripled in volume as the three donkeys looked around their new home and hollered 'hello' at the top of their lungs. Tommy had been leading Donna across the yard, and now he was fighting to keep hold of her lead as she rolled her eyes and reared at the God-awful sound. I shouted at TJ over the racket. "Donkeys? You brought me donkeys? This is a HORSE farm." He just grinned wider as the largest donkey took a deep breath and let loose with a hee-haw that hurt my ears. Gabriel took the lead rope of the smallest one and headed for the paddock furthest from the horses. The other two trotted amiably along behind and quieted down as Gabriel tossed them some alfalfa. "What the fuck?” I asked TJ as we followed them. "It's the William T. Shepard Memorial Foundation for Unwanted HORSES," I enunciated clearly to him. "And they look fine to me. Their goddamn lungs certainly work okay!" He was laughing too hard to answer me, so I turned to Gabriel, who had rejoined us, and raised an eyebrow at him sharply. "They were about to load them on the slaughter truck," he said, sobering up quickly. "Have you ever seen one of those places?" I hadn't, but I wouldn't wish that on any creature. "Why?" "Just tired of them, I guess. The guy wouldn't say. We, uh, had to pay him for them." "We BOUGHT them?!?" I exclaimed. This was getting better by the minute. Gabriel looked to TJ, who had managed to stop laughing by then, and met my eyes with a resigned look. "I'll pay for them. It was only a hundred bucks." He started to walk over to the paddock where the donkeys were happily gobbling down alfalfa, and Gabriel and I followed along. We went in with them, and they all crowded around us, nibbling at our pockets for treats. The littlest one looked up at me with those huge hairy ears flopped halfway over, and I was hooked. TJ was watching me, and when I looked up with a smile on my face, he grinned. "All right, so they're cute," I growled at him, pushing the donkey gently away. "Try to stick to horses, will you?" "Cute?" he yelled after me as I walked off. "They're fucking adorable, and you know it." I gave him the finger and kept walking. When I got to the rig, I looked back at them. TJ had his hand on Gabriel's shoulder as they laughed about something and I smiled at the two of them surrounded by donkeys. Christ, what next. My birthday was a Friday, and Matt surprised me at breakfast with a framed charcoal of Calvin and me in a quiet moment at the stable. In it, I'm standing on the bottom rail of the pasture fence, and Cal has his big head nuzzled into my chest as I scratch behind his ears. His eyes are closed and his lower lip is relaxed, drooping from his teeth a little. That's something we do regularly, and Matt must have seen us one day when he was there to visit Ginger. The drawing was so evocative of the moment that it gave me a chill, and I just stood there staring at it, unaware of Matt watching anxiously from across the table. Finally he couldn't stand the suspense and began, "If you don't like it, I can-" I looked up quickly. "No, Matty. Jesus, I love it. I simply can't believe that you can capture so much feeling with a stick of charcoal. It just amazes me.” I laid it carefully on the table and went to him, taking his face in my hands. "I love it, and I love you. Thank you.” I kissed him and gave him a long hug as he snuggled into me. He was sweet and affectionate, and I had gone from lusting after him to feeling very protective of him as his gentle, sensitive personality began to emerge. Actually, I still lusted after him, but since he slept with Vincent and me a couple times a week, it was a satisfied lust. Vincent just kissed me and said he'd see me later, which I thought odd until I realized he must have some surprise in store for me. Matt claimed to be clueless, so I went off to the barn. I looked behind every closed door for a party in the works, but everything seemed to be business as usual. The employees bought me lunch, and Teresa produced a cake with candles that wouldn't blow out; we all got the predictable hoot out of that. A little after five, Vincent pulled into the yard and tracked me down in Ginger's stall, where Sam was giving her a pregnancy viability exam. Ginger was a long way from being ready to breed, needing a few hundred more pounds and some serious conditioning, but I wanted to know if the possibility existed. Sam had her arm buried inside Ginger clear to the shoulder, and Vincent went pale as he watched her. "Jesus, I didn't know you could do that." "Well, a hundred pound baby horse fits through there." Vincent stuck out his tongue and made a gagging noise. He told me to meet him at the car as soon as I could, and five minutes later we were rolling down the lane. He wouldn't say where we were going, just that I'd like it. It was a pretty evening, chilly and clear, and he handed me a heavy jacket as we parked in front of an old barn out at the western edge of the county. I was glancing around when I heard an odd hiss and walked around the corner of the barn to see several people laying out a huge expanse of colorful material. One guy was aiming a flaming burner into one end of the thing, and I realized it was a hot air balloon. I turned to Vincent in delight to find him grinning at me. "Oh, God, I've always wanted to do this! How did you know?" "I know everything about you, baby." Sometimes I felt that was true. He stepped behind me, wrapping his arms around my waist as he put his chin on my shoulder, and we watched the balloon begin to take shape. As it filled, I saw that it had a horse on the side, an old time trotting horse like you see on weathervanes now and then. Perfect. We climbed into the basket, and as we soared up into the evening sky, my stomach did one of those squiggle things, like when you go over a little hill in the road too fast. I threw my head back and laughed as he smiled at me. "Happy birthday, Sean. I love you." The pilot told us that the first manned hot air balloon ride had been made by the Montgolfiere brothers on an early morning in 1783, more than two hundred years ago. We floated east with the breeze, passing over Stonegate just as the setting sun was lighting the sky with pinks and golds. The old stone buildings looked solid and lovely; the miles of white fences gleamed in the dusk, their shadows snaking along beside them. We drank champagne with a light supper Vincent had brought along. Champagne at 1000 feet is an experience in itself, and by the time we landed two hours later, I knew it was an evening I would remember forever. When Vincent took a turn away from the house instead of toward it, I glanced at him. He just tightened his hand on my leg, so I settled back to enjoy whatever he had planned. He drove down a winding lane that ended in front of a small bed and breakfast. The building was Victorian, painted in pastels, with turrets and gables, and more chimneys than I could count. Vincent checked us in as I wandered around the common room admiring the period furniture. At the door to our room, Vincent stood aside and nudged me in ahead of him. I glanced around and sighed with pleasure; a fire was crackling in the grate, a steaming hot tub bubbled in one corner, and the downy comforter on the huge four-poster bed was turned down invitingly. I turned to him and pulled him close. We hugged for a long time, and then he undressed me and handed me into the swirling water. I sank down with a sigh, and he joined me. We lounged there, watching the fire, until we were warmed up from the chilly balloon ride. As the logs crackled and snapped, he made love to me so tenderly that it felt like a dream. No one had ever gone to so much effort for me as Vincent did that night, and I fell asleep to the sound of him murmuring my name. It was a great way to start my 31st year. Morning was equally lovely. Breakfast was delivered to our door, and we stayed in bed as long as we could, but eventually we had to check out and go back to real life. I studied Vincent's profile as he drove us home, and finally he turned to look at me questioningly. "You're an amazing man," I told him. "God knows what I did to deserve you, but I'm never letting you go." "Sean, you couldn't get rid of me if you wanted to. You and I are forever. You know that, right?" I nodded at him; if I knew anything at all, I knew that. When we got home, Adam's Tahoe was in the drive, and I looked at Vincent, who replied, "I asked him to come stay with Matt last night." They were just making lunch when we came into the kitchen. Matt turned to me with a smile and Adam glanced at me a little hesitantly. After we ate, Adam followed me into the hall when I went to take our bags upstairs. "I slept with him," he offered, his chin up and his eyes wary. "He initiated it, and I didn't turn him down." I nodded, knowing it had to happen eventually, but feeling a small pang of loss just the same. "Does this have anything to do with the fact that you and Dylan are history?" "No. I was interested in Matt before that happened. You know that. And you know I wouldn't do that to him -- or to you, for that matter." I nodded at him; I did know that. "Just be careful with him, please. He's had a truly awful life up to now. I know I can't protect him from everything, but . . ." I looked up to see Adam watching me with compassion. "I will, Sean, I promise. I care about him, too." "He's so young." "He's old enough." His eyes met mine steadily for a long moment. I reached for him, and he came into my arms with a sigh. We hugged, and then I went up to our room and lay on the bed for a bit, thinking about how life works out. Vincent came up a while later and lay down behind me with a hand on my hip. "You upset about them being together?" I shook my head. "No, it was going to happen sooner or later. Better Adam than someone we don't know. Matt's just so young. He's just now getting the chance to find out who he is." "Maybe being with Adam is part of that." "Maybe," I agreed, then rolled over to hug Vincent. "Yesterday was incredible. Thank you." "You're welcome, sweetheart. I loved it, too." In mid-afternoon, I trotted down to the stable to ride Zena. I was just about to pony Chex along on a lead rope when Matt showed up. "Can I come?" I helped him saddle Chex, gave him a few basic instructions, and then we took a leisurely ride along the trails through the neighborhood. He remembered his short ride on Ginger and caught on quickly, moving easily with Chex when he took a few quick sideways steps to avoid a darting quail. Matt was quiet, and I figured he was working up to talking to me about Adam. I was right. "Are you angry at me?" he finally asked. I looked at him in surprise. "No, Matty. Why would you think I was?" "Cause I was with Adam.” His voice was small and it hurt me to think he was upset about something that should have been fun and enjoyable. I legged Zena over next to him and reached out to turn his face to me. "Matt, we don't own you. It's your decision who you sleep with. Not mine, not Vincent's.” I paused, wanting to explain it so that he would understand what I was feeling. "It makes us feel really good to be able to give you a shot at a better life, and I love having you live with us, but you’re not obligated to stay forever. You'll find someone of your own - maybe Adam, maybe not.” I let go of him and looked away. "It hurt a little to know that you were with him, I won't deny that, but not because it was Adam. He's a great guy.” I turned back to him. "Just be careful with yourself because you're very important to us." Matt nodded solemnly, and we continued our ride. He disappeared when we got home and I hoped I hadn't upset him too much. That first day he'd come over with Jesse, a sacred, skinny kid with a crumpled paper sack, I’d never expected to feel all this emotion for him. Lust, protectiveness, pride, love. He'd been with us only two months, but he felt like close family, and I wondered where life would lead him. I just hoped it wouldn't be too far away. Neither Vincent nor I felt like cooking, so we ordered Chinese. I hollered up to Matt to see if he wanted to go with me to pick it up, and he trotted down the stairs with a quick glance at me and hopped in the car. I didn't think we were done with the subject of Adam yet, and Matt launched back into it before we were out of the driveway. "I kissed Adam the first time when we went Christmas shopping that day. We talk a lot when he takes me to lunch and when he was here Friday night, about how he wants to stop traveling so much and buy a house and stuff. And how Dylan doesn't want that." "What about you, Matty? What do you want?" He gazed out the window, playing with a button on his shirt until I reached over to lay my fingers over his. He gripped my hand and held it against his chest. "I like Adam. A lot. I like that he's older than me. I don't wanna hook up with another kid. I'd feel safer with someone who can look out for me a little, like Vincent does for you. I need that." His quiet acknowledgement of the scars his prior life had left behind tugged at my heart, and his insight into my relationship with Vincent surprised me a little. "You're awful young for that kind of decision. There are a lot of nice guys out there and you've got all the time in the world to meet them." He turned to look squarely at me, his pale, slender face deadly serious. "I know all about how many guys are out there, Sean, and you're wrong that I'm too young. If I'd lived a normal life, I know I'd just now be starting to figure all that out, but I'm not a normal kid and I've had enough fucking around to last me a lifetime. I want what you and Vincent have. I want the love and security of a relationship - my own relationship." He fell silent, still holding my hand, and I thought about what he'd said. I couldn't imagine wanting to tie myself to one man at 18, but Matt was right; I hadn't lived the life he had and that made a huge difference. When he spoke again, his voice was quiet, and I had to strain to hear him. "But I think he still likes Dylan." I didn’t know what to say to that. I wasn't sure what Adam was feeling any more than Matt was. I just hoped to hell that Matt wasn't a temporary fix to get Adam past Dylan. Adam had said he wouldn't do that and I believed him, but I was afraid to encourage Matt too much, just in case. "Adam likes you, too, Matt, but he needs some time to get over Dylan. They’ve been close friends for several years.” Matt nodded, but didn't say anything else. When we picked up the food, I introduced Matt to Su-Lin Hong, the rail-thin Chinese lady who owned the little take-out place we frequented. She dug through the box of fortune cookies and made a big show of giving Matt a particular one, pressing it into his palm with a mysterious smile. As she held his hands, he stared at her like he'd been hypnotized, and I had to pull him away by his shirtsleeve. In the car, he held the cookie like it was a snake, looking at it now and then with wary eyes. I forgot about it when we got home, but he picked it up from the table when he was finished eating, turning it over and over in his hands. Vincent, who hadn't seen the odd way Su-Lin gave it to him, watched for a minute, then said, "You gonna eat that thing or not?" Matt jumped at his voice, crushed the cookie in his hand, and tore open one end of the wrapper, dumping the contents onto his plate. The little curved slip of paper sat on the pile of pieces and crumbs, and it was all I could do not to snatch it up to see what it said. Matt stared at it, and then slowly lifted it with his thumb and forefinger, bringing it up to where he could read it. I watched his eyes slide back and forth, and then he began to smile. "'Don't wade in the kiddie pool when you can swim in the ocean.'" Vincent frowned. "What the fuck does that mean?" he asked, looking at me for clarification. I smiled at Matt. "It means 'go for it'." Matt wandered away from the table after dinner and I found him later in his dark room, curled up in the big chair gazing out over the pasture where Chex and Zena were grazing in the dusk. I almost didn't see him when I glanced in, but he looked toward me and I caught the movement. He didn't invite me in and after a moment, I walked back downstairs to Vincent, who was half asleep on the couch, and hugged him awake so that he’d hug me back. I had taken Matt’s drawing of Calvin and me to my office at Stonegate and put it on my desk. Owners were in and out of there all the time and it wasn't long before Amanda caught sight of it. She snatched it up off the desk and took it to the window for a good look. "This is beautiful. Who's the artist? When did you have it done?" I explained that it was the same Matt she'd met in Florida, and told her a little more about how he'd come to live with us and about his artistic abilities. “Well, I'm a patron of the fucking arts. I want a picture of me with Calvin, too. And you," she added. "The three of us, and one of me with the dogs. And maybe one of Donna; she's such a pretty horse." Amanda didn't go anywhere without her pair of Jack Russells, who were currently snoozing on my feet. I told her to let me talk to Matt, and if he was interested, I'd have him call her. When I got home that night, I brought it up over dinner, recounting most of the conversation. "So do you think you'd like to try that, Matt? Doing work on commission is different than just drawing whatever you're in the mood for." He had stopped eating when I got to the part about Amanda wanting to hire him, and was staring at me in horrified delight. "Oh, my God, really? Do you think I'm good enough for what she wants? I mean, I know Wade bought that little one for his office, and you guys like your Christmas present, but . . ." "Of course you're good enough, honey. Your work is beautiful and Amanda will be thrilled to 'discover' you. God knows where this could lead." I gave him her number and he wandered off in a daze. He joined us in the den later, squaring his shoulders and putting on a determined expression. "I'm going to meet her at the barn tomorrow to do some preliminary sketches, maybe take some pictures.” His voice was faint and I smiled at him, holding out my hand until he came to me. I tugged him down onto my lap and chewed on his neck until he giggled and squirmed closer. The next morning, armed with his camera and a sketch pad, he snapped a number of pictures of Amanda, Calvin, Donna, me, and the dogs. Matt was excited as he concentrated on composing every frame. When he finished, he smiled at Amanda. “I’m going to enjoy doing this, ma’am.” "MA’AM!” Amanda exclaimed with a laugh. “I sure as hell hope that’s your way of saying 'Amanda,' cause 'ma’am' makes me think of somebody's fat Aunt Mabel, which I most certainly am not!” When I got home a few nights later, Vincent was alone in the kitchen and I asked where Matt was, since one rarely cooked without the other. "He's got a date." I turned and stared at Vincent, who was smiling slightly as he chopped potatoes. "A date?" I sounded just like every mother on every sitcom when her daughter goes out with some horny teenage boy for the first time. "With who?" "Eddie." "You told me last week that Eddie had a girlfriend." "Yeah, well, I also told you that he was undecided. This week it's boys." I poured a glass of wine and drank half of it quickly, choking a little when Matt came in into the kitchen, dressed for his goddamn date. He was wearing black jeans, my nicely broken-in black ostrich Tony Lama cowboy boots, and the sweater my mom had given him for Christmas – the one that matched his eyes – and he looked gorgeous. Seeing him every day had dulled me to how his looks had changed as he'd gained some weight and become secure enough to be happy. He'd gotten his hair cut short the last time, and it really suited him. Tonight it was gelled and kind of spiky on top, darker looking than usual. His eyes were sparkling with excitement, and as he came toward me, I wasn't sure I'd be able to let him walk out the door. I totally abused the excellent wine Vincent had opened, taking another big slug of it, which made him wince. "Where you guys goin'?” I asked, trying to speak calmly. Matt glanced at Vincent, and then looked at me. "Your generic date. Into town for dinner, then probably a movie. Nothing special." "Who's driving?" I'd be damned if I'd let Matt get into a car driven by a drunken, undecided Eddie. "Well, Eddie's gonna pick me up here, so I guess he'll drive." I put down my wine and went to him, stepping close and looking into his eyes. In the boots, he was a couple inches taller than me, and it was disconcerting to look up. "You have to promise us that you will not get in the car with him if he drinks. You get the keys from him and you drive. Okay?" Matt nodded, a bit subdued by my forcefulness. "Okay. I'm not dumb, Sean." "I know you're not, but it's easy to think that it was just one little drink, how much difference can it make? Just use your head." When Eddie arrived, I made Matt go bring him into the house for a minute. He was dressed in tight jeans and a black sweater, and he looked like a handsome thug, which did little to alleviate my protective instincts. Vincent greeted him cheerfully and said something to him in shotgun Italian. Eddie eyed me for a second before nodding vigorously. After they left, I turned to Vincent. "What did you say to him?" "I told him if any harm came to Matt that you'd hack his balls off with a rusty knife and choke him with them, and I'd hold him down while you did it." That made me feel a little better, but I expected I wouldn't sleep until I knew Matt was safely home again.
  5. We left the next morning for the final GP, the grand finale of the year. It was in Florida, which made a pleasant change from the December chill of East Texas. I brought Tommy along, figuring that he had been with me at the beginning so he might as well get to see the end, however it turned out. Matt had never been out of Houston till he came home with Vincent and Jesse, so he was thrilled with the circus atmosphere of the show grounds. He and Vincent went off to explore as I checked my gear, studied the course layout, and bit my nails, nervous as a whore in church now that I was actually here. I was too tightly wound to sit still, so I hopped on Calvin and worked him for a couple hours on the flat, practicing quick turns and lead swaps. He was really getting the hang of it, yielding to just the slightest pressure of my legs and hands, and I knew we had a chance on Sunday. We ate in the hotel that night with Amanda. She was in fine form, decked out with big diamonds and deep cleavage. Matt was entranced by her, especially when she called the waiter a 'half-dicked peckerwood' under her breath cause he was slow with her drink. She thought Matt was adorable and spent the evening entertaining him with stories of her sharecropper childhood, advantageous marriage, and eventual metamorphosis into wealthy social butterfly and horse aficionado. She invited him to sit in her owner's box for the Gran Prix but Matt politely declined, wanting to be in the stables where the action was. Amanda had gotten us a suite, two bedrooms on either side of a living area. We claimed one bedroom, Matt settled into the other, and it was lights out since we were all tired from the travel and time change. Friday I rode both horses for a couple hours each, while Vincent and Matt went to the beach. It was too cold to swim but Matt had a ball gathering shells, feeding the noisy gulls, and eating at every food vendor on the pier. That night we did the cocktail party thing. Matt got hit on by every woman under forty and most of the waiters, and I saw him return a few smiles. Adam did a double take when he saw Matt in a suit, raising his eyebrows at me and smiling. I nodded in bemused acknowledgement, fighting back a weird urge to lock Matt in his room until he turned 30. Saturday night we stayed in. I wanted to get a decent night's sleep, and I was tired of smiling my way through hours of boozy parties, and getting pinched on the ass by lonely, drunken women. Vincent stretched me out on the bed and gave me a wonderful massage, starting at my feet and working his way up my body, his hands warm and strong. He was just leaving my ass for my back when our door pushed open a little and Matt poked his head in. We were naked and Matt looked at us for a minute before coming in to stand by the bed. He was wearing boxers, tented out in front from his erection. Vincent and I both just looked up at him and finally he blurted out, "Can I sleep in here tonight? I'm really tired of jerkin' off by myself." I stared at him for another few seconds, but I couldn't stand it and burst into laughter. I grabbed his hand and pulled him onto the bed, rolling half onto him, his hard penis pressing into my hip. I tried to be serious, but his frustrated expression was too funny. I finally got myself under control and looked down at him. "Are you sure that's what you want, Matt?" He didn't reply, just lifted his head and kissed me. It was a wonderful kiss -- a little hesitant but full of heat -- and it went straight to my dick, stiffening it quickly. Vincent had been watching, and when my cock got hard he joined us, nuzzling into the kiss and stealing Matt's mouth from me. I finally gave in to something I’d wanted to do since I'd first seen his body; I moved slowly down Matt's smooth chest, tickling those hard pink nipples with my tongue, and then sliding his shorts slowly down his flat belly, following the waistband with my mouth. He was baby smooth clear down to his groin. There a wispy patch of curls surrounded his cock, which was hard and twitching with arousal. His penis was an even darker pink than his nipples, with a fat head and a shaft that thickened slightly toward the base. I ran a finger down the underside, smiling as his cock leaped up from his belly again and again. When I reached his smooth balls, I cupped them in one palm, feeling their weight, then pushed them snugly against his body as he spread his legs and arched his hips up into my hand. I lowered my face to him, my lips tugging gently at those curls, still damp from his shower; then nuzzled into his belly. I lapped up the drop of precum that was sliding down the head of his cock, tasting him for the first time. After probing his slit gently, I began to suck him. The next hour was wonderful. Matt was a little reserved at first, but relaxed quickly as we kissed and rubbed and licked him to what was maybe the first orgasm he'd ever had where it was all about him. I've never seen so much cum blast out of one dick. Maybe it was the combined efforts of our two mouths and four hands; maybe it was because he was young, but he just kept shooting and shooting, plastering his chest with shotgun spatters of thin, milky ejaculate that ran down his ribs in little rivulets. He lay there breathing hard for a few moments, eyes closed; then he began to smile, started to chuckle, and finally laughed aloud. "God, that was great!" he practically shouted, sitting up to hug and kiss us both at once. That broke the ice, and after that he was playful and incredibly sexy, sucking Vincent to an eye-crossing orgasm, one finger doing magic things in his ass. When Matt had first slid his hand down below Vincent's balls, I'd felt Vincent tense up for a moment, then relax to let him in. I knelt over Vincent's face, getting a tongue bath until he had to quit to climax; then, after Vincent caught his breath, it was my turn. Vincent put me on my back and slid into me easily while pressing my legs back to lean down and kiss me. Matt backed off a little, watching us soberly. This was probably a little too close to home for him, and we made no effort to include him; but it wasn't long before he crawled to me, playing with my nipples and kissing me while Vincent fucked me slowly. I knew Vincent was good for another orgasm and sure enough, when I got close he pulled out and joined me as we came on my belly, smiling at each other as we grunted through it. Afterward, Matt touched first Vincent's cock, then mine, licking the cum from his fingers each time. I watched him, wondering what this meant to him, to be with men who cared for him and to fuck for fun and cause it felt good, not because you needed to make rent. When he lifted his eyes to mine, they were clear and untroubled, and I pulled him down to me, hugging him close. "Love you, Matty." That surprised him; he went still in my arms, then relaxed and sighed deeply. "I didn't think I'd ever get away from him. Then Vincent found me and I thought maybe I had a chance. Thank you so much." I held him for another minute, then yawned in his face. I had a big day tomorrow. The suite had a large square shower that was a perfect fit with three of us in it. I couldn't believe the change in Matt. While Vincent washed him, Matt soaped me. He played with my ass enough to get another rise out of me, but I really needed to get some sleep, so we settled down in bed with Vincent in the middle. Like the night before my first GP, I was awake at 4am, huddled at one end of the couch in the center room when Vincent came in. "You're gonna do great," he whispered to me as he lifted one side of my blanket and snuggled in behind me. "Win or lose, you've done a wonderful job of it." I nodded and let him hold me close, soothed as always by the feel of his body next to mine. I’d done pretty well for coming into the GP circuit on such short notice like I had, and win or lose, I would always have that. The next morning I dressed carefully in white breeches and shirt, stock, formal black jacket, and my Sergio Grasso boots; if I didn’t ride well, I would at least look damn good. Vincent wolf-whistled and Matt ran his eyes over me, lingering at the nice package that the snug breeches made of my cock and balls. Amanda had catered brunch in a big tent at the end of our barn so we munched on shrimp cocktail, ham and roast beef sliced to order, platters of veggies and cheeses, more salads than I could name, and an entire table of sweets. Matt ate his way through it twice before slowing down to concentrate on the things he liked best. I schmoozed our various sponsors, thanking them for supporting me after Simon's unfortunate accident, blah, blah, blah. A couple of them eyed Vincent and Matt, wondering, I suppose, exactly what our relationship was. I was wondering that a bit myself after last night. I managed to eat a decent amount and oddly enough, I wasn’t especially nervous. I think my emotions had been so overworked lately that one more GP just wasn’t enough to get me excited, even if it was the most important one of the year. Tommy had both horses looking like a million bucks and presented me with a new set of spurs from him and Alejandro, engraved with ‘run fast, jump high’ across the inside. They were beautiful – bright, shiny stainless steel with raised oak leaves on the sides. I kissed him affectionately and strapped them on, thinking that if it all ended right then, I'd be a happy man. Amanda surprised me with ownership transfer papers for Calvin, reasoning that since no one but me could ride him to his full potential, I might as well have him. She’d paid $30k for him almost two years ago and had just been offered $250k, but she liked his quirky personality and didn’t really want to part with him. She suggested he might be a good breeding stallion if I didn’t want to show him. Just when I’d decided that Stonegate wasn’t a breeding facility, I found myself with a worthwhile stallion and TJ’s mare Ginger. Hmmm. I wondered what a baby from that cross would look like. Matt and Vincent came back in time to see me hop on Donna, both of them kissing me for luck. As I rode away sorting out the double reins, something caught my eye. Vincent had written 'I love you' on a little piece of paper and pinned it to the saddle pad, just in front of the pommel where I could see it but no one else could. I turned quickly in the saddle to see him watching me with a smile. He thumped his fist over his heart twice and off I went. Donna was 3rd to go in a big field of twenty-seven horses with Cal going 21st and Adam bringing up the rear. I rode past his barn where he was just getting tacked up. He came over and squeezed my leg as I leaned down to hug him. We each said 'good luck' at the same time and grinned at each other. If I couldn’t win, I hoped Adam would. The course was big, with fifteen jumping efforts, all of them formidable. Donna was perfect, leaping over each fence like she was programmed, cruising through the finish cones a few seconds under the allotted time. So far, so good; now for Calvin. Tommy had been warming him up for me, so when I got back to the barn, we just threw my saddle on him. He was on the muscle already, snorting and shifting restlessly, geared up from the crowd noise and the tension and excitement of his handlers. Tommy tossed me onto his back and I almost went off the other side when Calvin stepped toward us unexpectedly. Tommy looked up at me and shook his head. "You better go wear his ass out before you get in the ring or he'll dump you on your head." That sounded like excellent advice so I went off to the warm-up ring and cantered him in big figure 8s, doing three flying lead changes across the center. It's not every jumper who can do one-tempi changes so we attracted some attention and I heard cameras clicking. Just then a collective 'awwwww' rose from the crowd, and I knew that some poor horse had either plowed through a jump or refused it entirely. I quickly replaced that thought with a mental image of Amanda and me accepting the championship trophy. What the hell -- if you're gonna dream, dream big. All too soon we were entering the arena to a big round of applause, and I circled Calvin as I scanned the jumps to get my bearings. We took the first three without even breathing hard, but 4, 5, and 6 were a tricky combination that required our full attention. He ticked the second rail of the third jump but it stayed up. Then we were good until 11, which was a high vertical wall made of heavy cardboard bricks. The horse can't see through it and it wasn't an obstacle that had been used during the year. Cal took a long look as we approached and decided he didn't care for it. I felt him back off and had to ride the bejesus out of him, using my voice, the whip, and Tommy's new spurs to get him over it in one piece. Even then, he took off at the last possible second and just about pushed a brick off the top. It hung there, waiting for a breeze to finish the job, but it stayed up. Jump 14 was a big oxer, (my favorite!), with a hard right turn to the final jump. Cal slipped a little when he left the ground and twisted in the air when I asked for a right lead. He came down hard and jounced me out of the saddle, jerking my right foot free of the stirrup. When I hit the saddle again, I was off center and my left nut got crushed between the front of the saddle and my pelvic bone. I was sure my agonized shriek was loud enough to be heard in New Jersey but the crowd was so noisy that no one heard me except Calvin, and it spooked him. He stumbled slightly but charged on to the final vertical at full speed. I barely had time to rate his stride to get us there correctly when he launched into a huge jump that cleared the top rail by a foot, and then we were galloping through the finish cones. The photo that got printed in every horse paper in the country the next week showed Calvin with his ears pinned flat to his head, a big white streamer of cotton trailing comically from one ear, and me stretched out along his neck with my mouth wide open, an expression of absolute torture on my face. My hard hat was askew, my right stirrup was flapping in the breeze, and you could see the whites of both our eyes. If you didn't know better, you'd think I'd been on a horse three times in my entire life and I was riding a runaway. Tommy had to come into the ring to catch Cal, cause I couldn't get him under control with only one stirrup and a testicle that hurt so badly I figured I'd limp the rest of my natural life. He led us back to the barn where he and Vincent caught me as I fell out of the saddle with both hands cupping my nuts. They got me into a stall and I stood there spraddle-legged for several minutes before gingerly lowering my breeches to see if I still had two balls. Vincent, Matt, and Tommy all bent over to look closely as I lifted my dick out of the way, and reported that everything looked okay. Since it wasn't badly swollen or discolored, I sat down carefully with an icepack and a pain killer handed out by the sympathetic medic who had seen my ride and came by to see how I was doing. When Adam's turn came, I wobbled over to ringside to watch him go clear. That made four of us in the jump-off, me on two horses; but the thought of getting those two horses over seven more jumps each sent shudders through me and made my gut churn with dread. If I forfeited, that meant we'd place 4th and 5th, off the podium. Amanda took the pressure off by announcing that watching my wild ride had been worth every fucking nickel and as far as she was concerned, I could sit it out. Matt and Vincent just looked at me with identical expressions of pained sympathy and were no help at all. It was Tommy who squatted down in front of me, gripped my knees hard, and looked me in the eye. "Sean. You can do this. You got robbed once before, don't let it end without you." He hunkered there staring at me and I thought about how much more satisfying it always was later to have done the hard thing. I nodded at him and dropped my breeches to my ankles, then we gently duct taped my balls up out of the way of the saddle. It looked and felt pretty odd but if it let me make it through 57 seconds on each horse, I didn't care. I was to ride 1st and 5th, so I had Tommy warm up Donna and I got on her just a few minutes before they called us. Because of the duct tape I couldn't sit quite like I normally did in the saddle, and I could tell Donna was wondering what the hell the problem was. We made it around clear, although we were right at the time allowed. The next two horses both had a rail down, so Donna was in first so far. Adam rode beautifully, turning his big stallion tightly this way and that as he cut corners. He went clear a couple seconds quicker than Donna to take over first, and then it was Cal's turn. He was still wound up from our first go and I really had to get after him before he started listening to me. We roared around the course clean, following the path Adam had taken – saving a stride here and there – and as we crossed the line, I knew it was really close. I had just left the arena when the board updated and the crowd went crazy. I turned to look and saw #46, Adam's number, at the top of the list. He'd been two one hundredths faster than me to win the round, and with it, the championship. I felt a moment of sharp disappointment and found Amanda's eyes in the crowd around the gate. 'Sorry' my expression said, but she was grinning and elbowing her way toward me, followed by the guys. "What a great fucking year! I've never finished this high, and with both goddamn horses! You're the best! I love you!" People turned to look at her, laughing at her exuberance; I grinned back, shaking my head at her language. She was the owner; my job was to please her and evidently she was thrilled, so I let it go. Second and third was pretty damn good. Back at the big tent, I got drunk on the case of Krug's Clos du Mesnil Amanda had brought along for the occasion. Matt blew a mouthful out his nose when I told him it went for around $350 a bottle. He was coughing and laughing as we pounded him on the back. Even Vincent, who handles some decent wines at Corleone's, paled a little when he heard that. I reassured them that Amanda (or rather, her husband) could afford it, and that she’d get a pretty good paycheck for second and third place. Amanda pounded the champagne down like water, toasting everyone and everything that came to mind. After the 4th or 5th toast, I started getting woozy from the painkillers and alcohol and had to sit down. By that point, I’d lost what little modesty I normally have, so, accompanied by a few whistles and ooos and ahhhs, we made a production of cutting off my duct taped underwear. The medic wielded the scissors since he was the only one still sober. Once my dick and balls were exposed, there were a few whoas and sympathetic grimaces, but being drunk had its advantages and I blithely ignored them. The medic said something about there maybe being some pink in my semen the next time I ejaculated, and if it happened a second time I should go see the doctor right away. I put on a loose pair of jeans and re-joined the party just as Adam came by to make sure I was still a man. He kissed one finger and barely touched it to my crotch. I grabbed him in a huge congratulations hug, kissing him thoroughly before handing him over to Vincent. Matt was sufficiently lubricated with Krug to do his own hugging and kissing, surprising us all, and I saw Adam take a second look at Matt as he was leaving. Amanda’s driver dropped us back at the hotel after far too many toasts and a dinner that I have no recollection of. I don't know where Amanda put it, but she kept up with us drink for drink and barely showed the effects. Vincent and I were thoroughly hammered and had to hang onto the furniture while getting undressed. Matt was fairly sober – he didn’t like the taste of alcohol much – so he fed us both a few aspirin and made us each drink a big glass of water before maneuvering us into the bed where we all passed out. Morning was awful. It was way too sunny and the waiter at breakfast insisted on talking loudly as he chattered about muffin choices and the fifty ways they could fix eggs, all of which made me think seriously about barfing. It was a relief to crawl onto Amanda's jet and curl up on the big couch with a bottle of aspirin and Vincent to hold me. My abused testicle felt like it would be normal again someday and I was able to sleep for most of the flight. We got home in the early afternoon and just lay around the house while Maria kept us supplied with juice, cheese and crackers, and fresh veggies and fruit – wholesome foods that made me feel like living again. We went to bed early and felt fairly decent the next morning, so we all went off to work. It was a school day for Matt, so I dropped him at Wade's on my way to the barn. That was working out well. The tutor had given him a series of tests to determine where he needed to focus, so the time spent was very productive and he studied every night at the kitchen island while we made dinner. I was really enjoying the family aspect of having Matt in the house. Vincent and I had both lived alone for so long that we were very self-sufficient. Although Matt had looked after himself on the street for years, he was much younger, and now that he had the opportunity, he looked to Vincent and me for the affection and parenting he'd missed out on. It was very satisfying, fulfilling some need I hadn't realized I had. Vincent was very solicitous of my busted nut, soaping me gently when we showered and leaving me alone for a few days until I finally had to ask him to fuck me. The medic was right; the first time I ejaculated, with Vincent’s dick buried in my ass, there was a pinkish tinge in the cum that splashed over my chest. We both eyed it warily but it didn't happen again, and after a couple weeks I was good as new. Matt slept in his own room most nights, joining us now and then, always at his own discretion. Vincent and I, aware of his past and his age, never approached him sexually. The age of consent in Texas is 18 and we were very mindful of the word 'consent', always leaving the first move to Matt. We touched him a lot and hugged and kissed him regularly, but there was a difference between affection and seduction, and we all knew it. Matt frequently went from affection to seduction in the space of two minutes, catching us off guard occasionally, but we were always willing to shift gears. Actually, I figured we were a little old for him, and began to wonder when he'd be interested in other guys, but then it occurred to me that most of his customers probably had been men my age or older, so that's what Matt was used to. Now that GP season was over, Adam was around the barn every day and ran into Matt regularly, always stopping to talk with him. They seemed to be developing a firm friendship. Adam took Matt to lunch now and then, and came back to our place for dinner a couple nights a week. I assumed Adam was still seeing Dylan, but I hadn't heard from Dylan since Thanksgiving and wasn't sure what was up with them. The only lingering effect of Matt's past was a tendency to drift away mentally, gazing out the window for minutes at a stretch with a somber expression. Actually, since I hadn't known him before, this may simply have been a personality trait he'd had all along, but it didn't feel like that to me. Any time I interrupted him at it, it would take him an extra moment to be fully aware of me. On days when he did this, he was always more needy emotionally, coming to Vincent or me to be held often, and joining us at night to just cuddle up and sleep. One day when I saw him lost in thought in the den, I went to him, running my hand through his hair. “Can you tell me, Matt?” He took my hand and pulled me down into the big chair with him, turning to lay his face against my chest. I dropped my cheek to the top of his head, held the back of his neck with one hand and rubbed big slow circles on his back with the other, while he got his thoughts together. “I feel like I can’t forget it,” he said slowly. “Like part of me will be gone if I don’t keep it in my head.” He sighed deeply and I struggled for the right words to help him. “Is there anything good that you can remember, and let the bad stuff go?” He was quiet for a bit. “Yeah, some of them were nice to me. They gave me extra money, more than I had to give Ray, and sometimes they bought me something to eat. One guy gave me a jacket when it got cold.” Hearing him express gratitude for the basic needs that most kids never give a second thought to gave me chills and I hugged him close, more to comfort myself than him. I waited until I knew my voice would be steady before I replied. “Then just keep those good parts, Matty, and let the rest go. You never have to worry about any of that again, so just let it fade away.” He nodded against my chest and then lifted his head for a kiss. We sat there until Vincent came home from a catered dinner, Matt asleep in my arms, and Vincent smiled at us when he walked into the den around ten. “Is he okay?” he asked softly, bending down to kiss me hello. I took a hand off Matt and held Vincent’s face to mine for a moment, happy to have him home. He knelt down next to the chair and hugged us both, waking up Matt, who gave him a sleepy smile. Christmas was only a few weeks away and Saturday we got the bug to decorate, so Matt and Vincent went for a tree while I dragged the boxes out of storage. I didn't have much since I had never really bothered, so I ran out and bought a bunch of stuff - lights, tinsel, ornaments. Good thing cause they came back with two trees, a small one for the den where we spent our evenings, and a huge one for the entryway. We had a great time decking the halls, swigging down spiked eggnog and singing along with every holiday CD we owned. It was a wonderful day. Matt was happy and relaxed, his eyes bright with excitement as we stood the big tree up in the front hall. It was every inch of ten feet and we had to rig scaffolding out of two ladders and a couple boards to reach all of it. By the time we were finished, it was evening; I turned out the lights in that part of the house and handed Matt the plug. As the tree lit up the big hall with hundreds of tiny white lights, my chest tightened and I turned to take Vincent in my arms. He must have felt it too, cause he buried his face in my neck and held on tight for a long moment. Matt had stopped staring at the tree and was watching us with a sort of lost look on his face, so I went to him and wrapped him up in a hug. Looking at the changes in Matt during his short while with us, I felt reassured that Vincent had been right to bring him into our home. I thought of all the other kids Ray had ruined over the years. I couldn't save them all, but I was damn sure gonna see that this one got every possible chance at a decent life. The weeks leading up to Christmas went by in a pleasant blur of shopping, parties, too many cookies, employee reviews, Cody's birthday party, and God knows what else. I made sure Matt had money for shopping, padding his Stonegate pay a little with a 'bonus', and he and Adam went off one afternoon with secretive smiles on their faces. Danny came by the barn to drop off a bottle of wine and told me he and Becky had called it off. He didn't seem at all uncomfortable with me and even gave me a big hug when he left. He looked kind of relieved and happier than he had been in a while, and I smiled as he rattled away down the lane, remembering that morning in my office. Christmas Eve we went to my folks in the late afternoon; this time Matt was much easier around them and our visit stretched into the early evening. They'd gotten him a digital camera with all the bells and whistles, and he spent the rest of the day consulting the manual and snapping photos, muttering to himself and hitting the 'garbage' key when he wasn't pleased with the results. Then we stopped by Corleone's where the D'Ambruzzo clan had an annual ongoing party in the big meeting room. They still had a restaurant to run but assorted cousins, uncles, aunts, and in-laws came and went throughout the night. There were several tables groaning with food and Matt worked his way along them with a single-mindedness that made me smile. The son of a third cousin looked more than a little interested in Matt, and I came across them later sitting thigh to thigh out on the dark steps leading up to Vincent's old apartment (now Tony's), talking away. Eduardo was in his early twenties and had the dark good looks that all the D'Ambruzzo men seemed to get; he was about an inch shorter than me and stockier. They looked good together, I mused, as I went back inside to have a Christmas drink with Vincent and Tony. I mentioned Matt and Eduardo to Vincent, who thought about it for a moment, then shrugged. "Eddie's okay. A little, uh, undecided maybe, but he's not a bad kid." "Undecided, as in he can't make up his mind whether to be a cop or a fireman?" "No, smartass, undecided as to whether he likes boys or girls. Right now he seems equally fond of both." "Oh, my God . . ." I groaned, hanging my head. He chuckled and slung an arm around my neck to pull me close. "Quit worrying about him, Sean. How much trouble can he get into sitting on the steps?" I raised my eyebrows at him and he blinked, suddenly remembering more than one night when we were first seeing each other that we hadn't made it up more than five steps before our clothes started coming off. "Right. I'll check on them in a minute," he said, handing me a glass of Corleone's famous Holiday Punch, the ingredients of which Vincent wouldn't tell even me. It was great stuff and I glugged it down with abandon, knowing Vincent was staying sober enough to drive us home. He came back from checking on Matt and Eddie with a slightly embarrassed expression, and rolled his eyes when I looked at him. "They were kissing," he said, beginning to smile. "Maybe Eddie isn't as undecided as I thought." We gave them another ten minutes, then collected Matt from Eddie's arms and went home to bed.
  6. Against the backdrop of a horse stable in Texas, Sean deals with the lives and loves of his friends and neighbors as he pursues the biggest prize in show jumping and works to keep his own relationship strong and steady
  7. Come good days and bad days The sun's gonna rise So why look beyond What's in front of your eyes - Life Gets Away, Clint Black His hand hesitated for a fraction of a second, and he took a deeper breath before he spoke. “‘The’ someone?” “I don’t know. Maybe. I barely know him.” I picked up his free hand in mine and studied it, running my fingertip along the lines in his palm, tracing the veins on the back of his hand. He kept his nails short and manicured since his hands were always on display at the restaurants. “Do you love me?” Against my back I felt his heart rate increase to match my own, and knew that we were going down a road neither of us could turn around on. “Yes. I love you, Sean. Did you doubt it?” “No. But we never say it and . . . I needed to hear it.” There was a long silence, and then Vincent spoke. “Are you ending our relationship?” His voice was not quite steady, and the blunt rawness of his words had me turning to him in surprise. His face was expressionless, but his eyes gave him away. Dark and liquid, they searched mine carefully, and he looked more vulnerable than I’d ever seen him. “No! No. God . . . I knew before you came over tonight that I couldn’t do that.” I settled back down against him, stroking my hand along his bare arm, ruffling the dark hair, and we were quiet for a bit. "What did you want to talk to me about?" I asked him. He sighed, and said softly but very clearly, “I am in love with you, Sean.” He stopped me when I tried to twist toward him. “I have been for years.” I struggled in his arms. “Let me go!” He loosened his hold on me, and I turned quickly to kneel between his legs, gripping his wrists, staring at him. “You’re in love with me?” He nodded, looking at me gravely. “Remember the day Amanda’s horse kicked you and I stayed here a few days taking care of you?” He glanced away, looking into the cold fireplace. “I imagined doing that forever.” He turned back to me. “But you got better and made it clear that you didn’t need me any more.” There was a bitter note in his voice that tore at me. “No! I was afraid if I needed you too much, you’d pull away, and I didn't want to lose you. God, why didn’t you tell me?” “I almost did, but I was afraid, too. You had Dylan and whoever else back then, and I didn’t feel I could ask you to choose, so I became your friend. Your lover. After a while, it was almost enough.” “And now? Is that what you want, Vincent? Do you want it to be just you and me?” “No, not any more. I did, at first, but I like Dylan and the other guys, and I enjoy fooling around with them. Eventually I realized that what I really wanted was for you to need me. For us to need each other. I want what everyone wants, Sean. The security of knowing you’ll be there for me at the end of every single day. To make plans together that go farther out than just a couple days. To make some sort of life together.” I crawled up onto his chest and began to kiss him, but he pushed me gently back. “What about you, Sean? What do you want?” I shook my head and shrugged a little. “I don’t know any more. When we first met, I fell in love with you, but I knew there was someone else. You didn’t talk to me about him, so . . . I didn’t know what to think. I thought it must be pretty serious, and I was just glad when you had time for me.” He closed his eyes for a moment, but didn’t speak. "Is this why you've been a little off the past couple weeks?" He nodded. "It was getting too hard to be just your fuck buddy. I need more, Sean. I love you, and I want more." “Is that what you think you are to me? My 'fuck buddy'? Jesus, Vincent!" "What then? What am I to you?" "My best friend. I don’t want to lose you. But I like TJ. I want to get to know him better.” He didn't speak for quite a while and when he did, it was in a voice I'd never heard from him, cool and remote, and it made my skin crawl. “I understand. But I can’t hang around while you see him. Now that you know how I feel, I can’t . . . I can't be with you. Not until you figure it out, one way or the other.” He took my face in his hands and kissed me very softly, then pushed me away again, less gently this time, rose from the couch and walked out of the room. The thud of the front door closing behind him was loud in the quiet house, and I jerked at the sound. I was miserable the next day. I kept replaying our conversation in my head, but it always ended with the finality of the front door clicking shut. Even the thought of seeing TJ tonight wasn't much help. I didn’t get home till 6:30 and was just getting out of the shower when I heard the security ding of TJ's car coming up the drive. I yanked on jeans and jogged down the stairs to let him in. He was dressed casually and as usual, his golden good looks took my breath away for a minute. I kissed him briefly and led him into the den where Maria had left us a cold supper. After I poured two glasses of wine, I turned to him on the couch, bringing my knee up to rest against his leg. “TJ. We don’t know each other well at all, and I haven’t had a chance to tell you about my friends, my life away from the barn. I fuck around with several guys on a regular basis. One of them, Vincent, has been a good friend for years.” He looked away from me and I saw his face harden, knowing what was coming. “When I told him that I met you, we started talking about our relationship, something we hadn’t done before.” He held up a hand and rose from the couch, shaking his head as he walked across the room. “I don’t need to hear the rest. You love him, don’t you? I can hear it in your voice.” “Yes, I love him. But it's not that simple. I'm attracted to you, and I want to spend some time with you, but not in bed. That's too easy.” I got up and went to him, wrapping my arms around him from behind. He stiffened but didn’t pull away. “I’m not sorry I slept with you, but I'm not going to do it again until I get a few things figured out.” I took him back to the couch, pulling him close against me as we sank down. “TJ, you need to meet my buddies. They’ll like you as much as I do, and it’ll be good for you." We sat there for a couple hours, kissing a little, talking a lot. He had never lived completely out, as a gay man comfortable with himself and his life, and he asked me all sorts of questions about my friends and family, how I handled discrimination (badly and legally, if I had to) and things like whether I was affectionate with other men in public (yes, but not blatantly). Answering him in depth made me think about myself, about how I lived, what I cared about and believed in. By the time he left, he was willing to meet Dylan and Adam, so I called Dylan and we set it up for the following Friday night at his place. TJ hugged me for a long time at the door. "Thanks for being honest with me." After he left, I sat in the dark den for another hour, thinking about Vincent and TJ. They were so different, yet I was very attracted to both of them. Vincent was quiet, deep, and I knew that there were parts of himself he'd probably never share with me. We had a lot of history together, years spent in each other's company, so that I knew which brand of toothpaste he preferred, his mother's birthday, his love of old books. He was a steady presence in my life, and I was comfortable with that. Maybe a little too comfortable. TJ, on the other hand, was like a golden sparkler on a dark July night, all chills up my spine and those hot, hot kisses. He was new and exciting, and I wanted him badly. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I gave up and went to bed, but slept poorly, visions of Vincent's warm smile pushed aside by TJ's blue eyes. Friday arrived and I drove to Dylan's. We had decided that jerking off to a porn flick was a good ice breaker for TJ. Lots of sex in the air, but not with each other in case he was feeling bashful with two new guys and a group setting. He was such a kid in some ways that I didn't feel dragging him into bed with two other guys was the way to go, at least at first. Adam was there when I arrived and greeted me with a hug and a slow kiss that I must not have returned with enough enthusiasm. He pulled back to look at me, concern in his eyes. "What's wrong?" I sighed and tried to cheer up. "Nothing. Vincent and I are . . . not talking at the moment." His eyebrows shot up. "Not talking? Is he being a jerk?" "No, no. It's personal." I smiled at him and turned away when the doorbell announced TJ's arrival. Both Dylan and Adam hugged him and, although he looked a little surprised, he returned the hugs warmly. We settled around the TV with beers and munchies, and Dylan hit the 'play' button on Gus Mattox and Kent Larson. Mmmmm. It wasn't long before Dylan had his dick out, with Adam and I close behind. TJ glanced at us, then took a second look at Adam's overhand technique and reflexively put a hand on his crotch. I reached over and groped him a little, making him jump. "Come on, golden boy, get with the program." He laughed, shaking his head while he opened his pants and lifted his big cock free. It was stiff but not fully hard yet, and it got Dylan’s and Adam's immediate attention. He started stroking it loosely, and we all stared while it swelled, growing longer and fatter until Dylan was practically licking his lips. Eventually Gus and Kent re-captured our interest and the movie finished us off in predictable fashion. Dylan welcomed TJ to the gang by standing between his knees and blasting cum all over his stomach, thoughtfully yanking TJ's t-shirt up first. I thought TJ's eyes were going to pop out of his head, but he obviously got into it cause he almost had a coronary when he climaxed, convulsing and groaning, shooting hot shots clear up to his chin. I left them undressing and heading for the shower. TJ gave me a pleading look, but I assured him it was cool, and the last I saw of him, Dylan's hand was on his ass as they walked down the hall. I drove slowly home. I spent the next week just getting through the days. I went to work early and caught up on all the little shit that always gets put off till later. I sorted tack, straightened up my desk, cleaned out the big horse trailer that we used constantly and which was always a mess, rode horses till my shoulder throbbed. I spent the evenings alone, floating around the pool until the stars came out, then trudging up to the house for something to eat. After I showered, I usually sat in the den for a while thinking about all sorts of things. When I bought this house and started working at Stonegate I was young, only 23, and still hurting emotionally over the loss of my Gran Prix career. All I thought about then was when I was going to get laid next, and who was driving to the bar that night. I wasn't a total fuck up, but I was young, single, and cruisin'. Now I was thirty, no longer a kid, and the things that mattered to me were very different. My friends, my family, my job running the stable and preparing the equine stars of tomorrow - I cared deeply about them all. I didn't have any one light bulb moment that week, but I did begin to understand more about the things that were really important to me, what I wanted the rest of my life to be like. I was exhausted, but I still couldn't sleep more than a few hours at a time. I usually just stayed on the couch in the den, curled up in the last place Vincent had held me. I masturbated myself to sleep most nights, imagining it was his hand on my cock. That Wednesday I ran into Cody at the barn. He took one look at my face and dragged me into the tack room, shutting the door firmly behind him. "What's the matter? Are you sick?" he demanded. I shook my head, trying to smile at him. "No, I'm okay." But he wasn't buying it, and I finally told him the bare bones of what was going on. His eyes played over my face as I spoke and when I finished, he took me in his arms, but didn't speak. After a while he let me go, and we went back to work. I didn't see him any more that day, but Wade called later that afternoon and asked me to come over. "Not tonight, Wade. I'm just not in the mood, sorry." "Neither are we," he replied. "We want to talk to you." He wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I finally agreed to come over for dinner, figuring I could get home early enough to wallow in the den some more. Wade greeted me with a long hug which felt great. He’s a big guy, and you know you've been hugged when he gets done with you. He pulled back a little, put his hand to my cheek and looked me over. "You look like shit," he announced. "I love you, too," I chuckled, and then blew out a breath. "Yeah, I know. This has got me pretty fucked up." We ate grilled chicken and salad, and then settled into their big over sized sofa, me in the middle, our legs in a tangle. I hadn't been with anyone in almost two weeks, and the physical contact with two close friends, men who cared about me, was almost overwhelming. They could tell I was close to the edge and didn't say anything for a while, just sat there with me. Cody leaned into my shoulder with his face in my neck. His breath was warm on my skin, and I tipped my head to rub my cheek against his hair. Wade watched us, a small smile curling the corners of his mouth as he rubbed his thumb over the back of my hand. "Do you love Vincent?" he finally asked me. I shook my head slowly. "Of course." "But you have the hots for TJ." It was a statement, not a question. I nodded. "Have you slept with him?" I nodded again. "And?" I shrugged. "It was good. Actually, it was great. He's a good guy." "But?" His voice held a challenge. I looked at him. He looked back hard, willing me to think it through. It wasn’t very difficult. "But he's not Vincent." "Bingo." He lay back and swung his legs across my lap, bending one knee to rest it against my chest. I hugged it to me, running my hand from knee to groin. Each time my hand reached the crease of his big thigh, he pushed up into me a little. "You've known Vincent, what? Eight, ten years? You guys get along better than anybody I know. We've always wondered what was keeping you from getting together." I’d never told them about the marks on Vincent's wrists. When I did now, they both fell silent for a moment, then Wade said, "How long since you saw them last?" How long? Years. It had been years since he'd come to me with the marks of another man on his body. I shook my head, ashamed that I hadn't realized sooner. All that time he'd been loving me. "Sean." When I looked up at him, he reached out and ran his knuckles along my jaw. "What I have with Cody is the best thing that ever happened to me. I enjoyed my life before you introduced us, but the last four years are what I was waiting for." He smiled at Cody, who was rubbing Wade's bare foot and watching him intently. "Vincent is offering you that. Make damn sure before you say ‘no thanks’.” Cody leaned down and kissed Wade’s big toe. “We had us a bitta the same problem. Wade was so settled and responsible - Mr. Wahhhl Street. Ah grew up in a pickup truck and the back lots of rodeos, and shore as hell didn’t think Ah was ready to take on a mortgage and a partner. Luckily Wade kept after me. God knows where Ah’d be if he hadn’t.” He had to stop while Wade sat up and crawled across my lap to kiss him. “All Ah’m saying is, you and Vincent already love each other. Is it worth risking that for a kid you jist met?” I must have looked wiped out because they pulled me off the couch, stripped me in the bedroom, and sandwiched me in between them in their big sleigh bed. As Wade draped his arm across me to hold Cody's shoulder, he kissed the back of my neck, and whispered, "Go with your heart, Sean." As I drifted off to sleep, I thought that sounded like good advice. I drove slowly to work the next morning. It had been two weeks since Vincent had walked out my front door, and it felt like two years. There was an ache in my chest that had only gotten worse. I thought about TJ, about where he was in his life right now, and knew I was past that. I, too, wanted more. I dialed Vincent's number as I parked next to the office. He answered on the second ring, and the sound of his voice tightened my chest. "Hi, it's me." "Hey . . . you okay?" "No," I said, my voice shaky. "No, I'm not okay. I need to see you. Tonight." The silence was so long that I closed my eyes. When he finally spoke his voice wasn't steady either. "I'll be there at seven." The phone went dead in my ear. I went through the day on auto pilot - not a smart idea around horses - finally waking up when Maddy's big draft cross gelding mashed my foot into the dirt. I gimped around the rest of the day, thinking of all the things I wanted to tell Vincent, hoping it wasn't too late. I was limping down the steps when the front door swung open and he stepped in. I stopped when he saw me and our eyes locked as he pushed the door shut behind him and leaned back against it. His hair was tied back, and he was wearing a white t-shirt and faded jeans. He looked beautiful to me, standing there in the dim light of the entryway, black eyes watching me from his dark, somber face. I could see every day of the past two weeks in the shadows under his eyes and the lines around his mouth, and I could tell by the way he looked at me that he could see the same. “There’s something I need to know.” He nodded as if he knew what I was going to ask him. “The rope marks?” he said. I nodded. “I haven’t seen him in five years. After I met you, I knew I had to get away from him. It . . . just took me a while.” I went down the last couple steps, and crossed the hall to him, reaching up a hand to run the tips of my fingers down his cheek. His jaw clenched as he tipped his face into my hand, and his eyes never left mine. The feel of him was achingly familiar. His hands, his mouth, his cock had taken me past the point of reason too many times to count. Those dark eyes had watched me through the orgasms, tears, laughter, and despair of the last eight years. And through it all they had watched me with love and acceptance. I knew what I wanted. "Vincent, I love you. I need you. I want us to make a life together." I gave his words back to him, putting my heart into it. "If you'll have me."
  8. You're my kind of crazy Full moon saying you know what I like How about it baby Let's you and I go out and get crazy tonight - My Kind of Crazy - Brooks & Dunn I couldn’t speak at all. He was spectacular. If someone had asked me to draw my dream man, I wouldn’t have drawn TJ because I wouldn’t have been able to imagine all of the little things that made him so attractive to me. His eyes were the clear blue of a September afternoon, crinkled at the corners; set in that strong, tan face, they were heart stopping. He had a three day stubble thing going, the golden hair framing his full mouth, and I could almost feel it tickling my neck. He was lean and hard, all sinewy muscle from wrestling uncooperative horses around all day. From his neck to his wrists, one curve melted into another, accentuated by a light sprinkle of soft golden hair. I couldn’t see his legs, but doubted they would be any less marvelous than the rest of him. He reminded me of an illustration of a Viking in an old book of Norse fables I’d had as a child. He was looking down at his clipboard as he began to walk toward us. Little puffs of dust kicked up from his long strides and hung in the air. When he got near, he glanced up with the beginnings of a smile, but when he met my gaze, he stopped in his tracks, and the smile died from his mouth. The pit of my stomach knotted up so quickly that I put a hand on my gut. He stood there with his clipboard clutched in one hand, knuckles white, arm muscles tensed. It was one of those moments that you read about, but think can’t possibly happen in real life. In the movies, there’s always violin music or trumpets. What I remember is lots of cursing as one of the new horses bucked and kicked at the end of his lead, happy to be out of the truck. “I…uh…I’m…” He stopped and swallowed. “I’m TJ Lundquist, the, uh, shoer,” he finally got out, staring at me. I stood there mute, rooted to the ground, until Tommy goosed me. “Ooh. Ah, yeah. Sean Flanagan, the barn manager. Hi.” I managed to shuffle a couple steps forward, and held out my hand. He stared at it for a second, and then laid his slowly into it, closing his fingers over mine in a gradually tightening grip that had me wincing in a few seconds. Farriers have strong hands. He dropped my hand with a chagrined look. “Sorry.” He glanced around the yard. “Where should I park?” “Back up to the middle door. We'll use those cross ties.” I waved a hand toward the barn door, and he nodded and got back in his truck. The sight of those bibs tightening over his round ass as he lifted his leg into the truck had all three of us gulping for air. As he reached out to grab the door, I noticed the tuft of golden hair under his arm, and my stomach went nuts gain, coiling around like a bag of snakes. I chased Tommy and Alejandro back to work, and went off to get Queenie, unsuspecting horse shoer guinea pig. When I arrived with the mare, TJ had his truck opened up, his nail box out, and was buckling his heavy leather shoeing apron around his hips where it settled low in front, accentuating his package. I closed my eyes and counted to five, and then turned the mare around in the cross tie stall where she switched her tail, and eyed TJ almost as much as I had. “She’s pretty quiet, but I’ll hold her for you,” I said as he walked around Queenie, talking softly to her and scratching her neck. You face the back of the horse a lot when you’re shoeing so I had time to study TJ Lundquist, and I liked everything I saw. He was good with the horse, quiet, but firm, and he knew his job. And he had a great ass. As he rested his left hand on her rump, I noticed he was missing the little finger on that hand. Cody came whistling around the corner, and stopped dead when he caught sight of TJ leaning casually on Queenie. “Good Gawd Almighty, who are you?” I jumped in before TJ could get his mouth open. “Cody Birdwell, TJ Lundquist, one of Danny's guys.” TJ held out his hand. Cody stared at it for a long moment just like I had, and I wondered how TJ got through a day. I suppose not every man he shook hands with was gay, but still. They shook, lingering a little. Cody was happily partnered with Wade, but even he wasn’t immune to TJ’s charm or pheromones or whatever the hell it was. “The Lawton, Oklahoma, Birdwells?” TJ asked, eyebrows raised. “Yup. Ya maybe hearda my daddy. Rodeoed for a spell.” That’s like saying Hank Aaron played a little ball, or Mozart wrote a few tunes. “God, I grew up watching Davis Birdwell ride everything he threw a leg over. And you won the cutting horse Worlds in February, right?” “Yup agin." Cody squinted at him. "Plannin' to win it next year. Getcha good seats if ya wanna go." "Jesus, that'd be great. This the horse?" he asked, scratching Queenie's back. She curled her upper lip a little, and pushed back into his hand, grunting. "That's her. Do ‘er right." TJ chuckled. "Will do. Pleasure to meet you." Cody gave him another once over before he headed off to the south barn to get his reining horse. Before he started on her front feet, TJ asked me to trot her out and back, and on the return, I glanced up to see if he wanted us to go again, but he was staring at my crotch and apparently hadn’t seen a single step the horse had taken. I silently thanked whatever gods had made me put on my snuggest training tights this morning; it's always nice to know you're looking hot when you need to be. When he realized we were just standing there, he closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose for a moment before asking me to trot her again. Finally I left him with Tommy on the lead, and went off to ride a three year old filly that Amanda had purchased sight unseen from Spain a few months ago. She was a Fresian, big and black, and a joy to ride, although she was only four. We worked on gait transitions for a while, and then I handed the reins to one of the stable boys and went to take a leak. I pushed the door open, and there stood TJ with his dick in one hand pissing a hard stream into the urinal. Jesus Christ, what a sight. He’d undone the straps of his bibs which were hanging halfway down his thighs and had his other hand under his tank, running it over his chest and belly while he pissed, obviously enjoying himself. He was wearing a jock under the bibs and had pulled his dick out one side of the pouch. A trimmed golden triangle curled around the base of his penis, the tan cheeks of his ass were framed by the white straps of the jock and, once again, I was struck dumb. I stood there staring at his cock long past what could have been shrugged off as natural male curiosity. He finished peeing, stroked himself a couple times, either for my benefit or just because it felt good, and was tucking it back into the jock before I managed to drag my eyes up to his amused gaze. He cocked an eyebrow at me as he hitched up the bib straps and slid by me out the door, brushing his crotch lightly along my arm on the way past. I closed my eyes and hung my head. Jesus Christ, Sean, get a grip. The guy was turning me into a moron. I pissed, gave it a couple strokes to make myself feel better, and headed back to the barn where TJ was finishing up Amanda’s last horse, a grumpy bay gelding. “Get that grey mare,” I told Tommy, taking the gelding’s lead from him. He trotted off, and I hazarded a glance at TJ but he was absorbed in the final rasping of a front foot. He set it down, narrowed his eyes at each hoof in turn, and pronounced the gelding done. He glanced at me and blinked, expecting Tommy, I guess, and I gave him a casual smile, hoping to get by the men’s room incident as quickly as possible. He held my gaze a moment, expressionless, and then turned to watch the skinny grey mare come down the barn aisle. I swapped leads with Tommy, and led the mare into the cross ties. “She’s thrushy in her off hind,” I said. “I need you to trim her close so we can see how bad it is.” He nodded as he watched the mare cock that toe. “Sore.” “A little," I agreed. He nodded again, and went to work on her. When he had her trimmed, he waved me down so he could show me. Our knees bumped when I squatted next to him, but I didn’t move away. Let him if he wants, I thought, but he didn’t. We decided that the mare wasn’t too bad, and he finished shoeing her. I gave her a tetanus shot, and Tommy took her off to soak her foot in an antiseptic bath. I got called away to help load an uncooperative Arab, and when I got back, TJ had packed up and all I could see of him was the dust trail his truck made as it went down the lane. I stared after him until the air cleared. The following Saturday morning we had a dressage test at Show Park, the local horse show venue, and I stopped for a mocha on the way. Someone held the door as I reached it, and I glanced up with a smile and a ‘thanks,’ but it stuck in my throat when I saw TJ’s grinning face. His pale blue polo and khakis were a far cry from the bibs, and he looked even more gorgeous than he had at the barn. Today’s hat was a summer fedora made of dark straw with a thin, pale blue band a few shades lighter than his eyes. He looked absolutely edible. He followed me in, and we joined the line. After taking a long look at my tall black boots, white breeches, and formal shirt under the short black jacket, he met my eyes again. “Dressage? Thought you rode jumpers.” “I do, mostly. Today is just a test before the regionals, and everybody rides. It’s good experience. How’d you know I jumped?” “Danny said.” He stared into the pastry case for a moment, then turned back to me and bit his lower lip. From the expression on his face, I thought he might be about to declare his undying love, but instead he said, “I’ll be back out early Monday to check the grey mare.” I nodded, we got our coffees, and left - I to my dressage test and he to no telling what. I got to the barn around 7am on Monday, just in time to watch TJ back into place by the middle doors. I was determined to act like a normal person this time and wandered casually over to his truck. As I opened the door for him, he handed me a to-go cup. “Grande mocha, one sugar, lots of whipped cream” he announced, grinning at me when my face registered my surprise. Not just good looking, and hung like the proverbial horse, but kind and thoughtful, too? Could he get any better? I had to find out. I looked into those blue, blue eyes, putting a little heat in it, and the humor drained out of his face to be replaced with something that made my heart pound. “Come over tonight,” I said softly. “I need…I want to spend some time with you. Away from thrushy horses, and without an audience.” I cut my eyes at Tommy and Sam, smiling at us from the office door. He looked at me carefully, running his eyes over my face before nodding, got out of the truck, and went to work. I enjoyed my mocha while he approved the grey mare’s progress, and just before he left, I tucked a note with my cell # and address into his front bib pocket. He patted it with his damaged left hand and gave me a smile. I called Maria with a few requests, then called Vincent and Dylan, who each had permanent security codes to my place, and told them I needed the house to myself tonight. With that accomplished, I zombied through the rest of the day, getting tossed on my ass by the Fresian filly while I was imagining TJ’s shoulder under my hand rather than the filly’s. But 5:30 eventually arrived and I loped out the gate on Zena, hot to get home. I showered quickly, jogged down the stairs, and puttered in the kitchen waiting for TJ who arrived around 7, freshly showered, but still with the 3 day stubble. “How do you keep it just the right length?” I asked him, running a knuckle down his cheek. He stayed silent, watching me, until my hand dropped off his chin. “Horse clippers. Set them for a close body clip and it comes out like this.” I chuckled, and pulled him through the door. He followed me to the kitchen, and I poured wine for both of us, then led the winding way to the jungle pool with its hot tub tucked in one corner. Maria had laid out towels, and placed candles here and there. I wandered around in the dusk lighting them with TJ at my side until we were back at the Jacuzzi. Then things kind of ground to a halt. I’m not a bashful guy, but I just couldn’t relax with him. My palms were sweaty, and I couldn’t think of a goddamn thing to say that didn’t sound idiotic. I turned away from him slightly, cursing this as a bad idea when I felt his big warm hand settle over the back of my neck, then slide down onto my chest. He spread his feet slightly, pulled me back against him, and put his mouth to my ear. “Thanks for having me over,” he said softly. “I was gonna ask if you didn’t.” He hooked his hand up over my opposite shoulder and squeezed softly, holding me in a gentle headlock. I draped a hand over his arm, and we stood there quite a while, sipping our wine and watching the sun go down. His chest rose and fell in deep, even breaths behind me, and I could feel the steady thud of his heart against my back. When it was almost dark, he turned to me, and I felt his warm breath wash across my cheek. “Gonna feed me?” “Shit, yes. Sorry.” I reluctantly pulled free of his arm, and stepped away from him to get some platters of cheese, crackers, fruit and cold chicken out of the fridge by the barbeque. I arranged them on the edge of the fire pit, and he sat down close to me on a chaise lounge while we ate. At one point he plucked a grape and offered it to me, his hand a couple inches from my mouth so that I had to reach for it. I took the first knuckle of his finger as well, and heard him suck in a quick breath as I tickled the tip of it with my tongue while it slid from my lips. Such a hokey old move, but sooo effective. I guess that broke the ice cause the next thing I knew, I was on my back on the chaise, and TJ was looming over me, braced on those beautiful golden arms, lowering his face to mine. Sweet Jesus, could he kiss. I’ve been kissed by a lot of men, a few women, a couple horses, and the odd dog, but he was in a class by himself. Slow, deep, sincere. He kissed like he meant it. I’ve met people who hug that way. You come away from one of their hugs all warm inside with a silly smile on your face. After several minutes of learning every inch of my mouth, he pulled back slightly and looked at me. I lay there, slack jawed, eyes shut, totally undone. I took a page from Tommy’s book with a heartfelt, breathless, “Fuck.” He sort of choked, and jumped to his feet. I opened my eyes and looked at him, but he avoided my gaze and stripped off his clothes quickly, then pulled me to my feet and tugged my shirt off. If he looked good dressed, it was nothing compared to how he looked naked. He was golden all over except for his small dark nipples, pinkish brown cock, and darker scrotum which hung full and inviting between his thighs. The only hair on his body was a light haze on his forearms and lower legs, and a little ribbon trailing down from his belly button to the blond triangle I’d seen in the men’s room at the barn. The rest of him was smooth and tan, a silken veneer over the hard planes of his chest, and the tight muscles of his belly. Wow. I finally roused myself enough to help, and we eased into the hot bubbling water, settling thigh to thigh on a deep bench. He draped his arms out along the rim of the tub, his fingertips resting lightly on my shoulder. I gathered my wits about me, determined to stop acting like a love struck teenager. “What’s TJ stand for?” “Timothy James.” His head was resting back against the edge of the hot tub, and his eyes wandered over the night sky. “But that took too long to yell when my mom was pissed, so it became TJ pretty quick.” We talked more easily after that. I learned that he was twenty-seven and had grown up in Montana with an older brother and sister, leaving the one horse town of his birth the day after high school graduation. He’d ridden all his life and loved horses, but needed to make a living, so becoming a farrier seemed like the best option. After two years of school in Missouri, he’d been practicing for six years and had moved here a couple months ago. His brother had gone to college with Danny’s sister, and Danny had offered him a job when one of his other guys moved to California. He’d lost the finger when a horse had pinned it to the shoeing stand, crushing it beyond repair. As I told him about my career-ending accident, he pulled me a little closer, hearing the regret in my voice, and I leaned into him, enjoying the solid comfort of his body. When we were both pruney and sweating, I pulled him up out of the tub and shoved him into the pool, leaping in after him with a big splash. I came up sputtering with no TJ in sight, and thought ‘fuck, he can’t swim and I’ve killed him.’ I was about to dive and look for him when he grabbed me around the waist from behind, and shot us both up out of the water like dolphins. We crashed back into the pool and he rolled me around until we were face to face, my arms around his neck, his hands on my ass, both of us treading water just enough to stay afloat. He licked a drop of water off my nose, then closed his mouth over mine and almost drowned us both as we stopped kicking to concentrate on the kiss. He paddled us to the steps where he rolled onto his back, and pulled me on top of him, belly to belly, holding my head with both hands so he could look me in the face. I flattened my hands against his chest, feeling his nipples harden into my palms, and stared back into those beautiful blue eyes. Finally he spoke in a low voice. “I wanna be with you. Please take me to bed.” I smiled at him gently. “TJ, I asked you over here to get to know you better, not to jump you on the first date.” “I know. I want to.” When I didn’t reply immediately, a shadow crossed his face, and he began to shift out from under me. “Forget it. Sorry.” I gripped his shoulders, holding him to me. “No, I want to. Jesus, you have no idea how I want to. I just…don’t want you to think I expect it.” “I don’t think that.” He nuzzled his face into my neck. “Please.” Well, shit, I’m only human. We climbed out of the pool, and I led him to the little cabana hidden under the waterfall. It’s a special place, sort of a hideaway,, and only Vincent has ever shared it with me. We toweled each other dry which led to some of the most arousing foreplay I’ve ever experienced. We went slowly, both of us feeling whatever it was that had stopped him in his tracks and struck me mute the day we’d met. We kissed for a long time, standing by the side of the big bed, freshly made up by Maria that afternoon, running our hands over each other’s bodies, learning the curves and valleys, memorizing the quick intakes of breath that signaled a sensitive spot. He had good hands, as I’ve said before, and he knew how to use their strength firmly but gently. By the time he pushed me down onto the bed, neither of us was steady on our feet. He lowered himself onto me, letting most of his weight press me into the mattress from chest to thigh, and supported himself on his elbows so he could look me in the face. “Before we do this, I need you to know that I’ve only been with a few guys.” He looked a little defiant at this admission, but swallowed and continued on. “I mean, I know what to do but...shit.” He buried his face in the curve of my neck, and mumbled something else. Gone was the flirty man from the bathroom, rubbing his chest, and pissing like a stallion. I was holding a shy, embarrassed kid, and the change startled me. I rubbed his back a moment, then tugged on his hair a little, trying to get him to lift his head. “TJ. It’s okay. Talk to me. What else did you say?” He raised his head and stared at me, his blue eyes dark, then said bleakly, “I said I’ve never fucked.” I stared at him blankly for a moment, speechless yet again. It was becoming a bad habit.
  9. I've worked the farms, I've been to town Guess you could say I've been around But I ain't never seen no one like you - I Ain't Never Seen No One Like You, George Straight The rest of the day passed uneventfully, and I was unsaddling Zena in my own barn at 6:15. It was warm, so I stopped at the pool and stripped, diving in the deep end, and swimming a few laps to wash off the grunge of the day. I eventually surfaced at the shallow end right into a big droopy dick and balls dangling over the edge of the pool. Dylan was laughing down at me as I put my hands on his knees, and pulled myself up when he leaned forward to kiss me, ruffling my wet hair. Dylan O'Hara is all Irish, pale skin, lots of freckles and reddish brown hair. He's a gym rat and looks it, 190 at 5'11", well-muscled but not grotesque. He’s a 3rd cousin twice removed or something, a couple months younger than me, and we’ve been best pals since we were kids. We explored each other’s bodies thoroughly one long, hot August when we were fifteen and our families had taken adjoining cabins on a lake. That was the summer we both realized we liked boys, and that soft pink cock in front of my face represented a lot of firsts for me. The feelings that surged through me when I first slid it into my mouth one night in the bottom of a beached rowboat were overwhelming. Physically it was unbelievably arousing. The smell and taste and feel of him blotted everything else from my mind and I came in my shorts while I was still sucking him. Emotionally it was a watershed moment for me. It was the first time in my life that I’d felt completely right with myself. All the confusing, murky signals my mind and body had been sending me for the past few years lined up like ducks in a shooting gallery, and I finally understood. Dylan will always hold a special place in my heart - you never forget your first. “I brought stuff for burgers,” he said, slipping into the water next to me. He wrapped an arm around my chest from behind, and pushed off across the pool on his back, towing me along between his legs, his dick bobbing against my back. We swam and groped and dunked each other for an hour, playing like we were still kids. We know one another inside out, and I’m more comfortable with him than anyone I know. After a while I hopped out to turn on the grill and came back to sit on the pool steps. He dog paddled over between my knees and wrapped his arms around my waist, taking my soft cock into his mouth. I leaned back on my hands while he worked me up to a full erection before coming to his knees a couple steps below me and sucking me to orgasm, following his mouth up and down my shaft with his hand. Since we’ve been trading blow jobs for fifteen years, he knows what I like, and it didn’t take long. As he raised his wet mouth from my softening dick, I kissed him, running my tongue around his lips. “Mmmmm,” I purred, hugging him. “I’ll return the favor for dessert.” We grilled burgers, ate naked by the pool - I seem to eat an awful lot of meals with no clothes on - and enjoyed the sunset over the tree line beyond my pasture. Did I mention I love living here? When it was almost dark we gathered up the leftovers and went inside. Dylan had brought chocolate éclairs from the deli across the road, so we ate them snuggled up on the sofa in the den, watching Greta Garbo be elegant and mysterious in Grand Hotel. I was propped on my side up against one arm of the couch, and Dylan was lying in front of me, nestled into my crotch, my soft dick wedged into the crack of his butt. He comes over one or two nights a week, and we usually end up just like this, fooling around on the couch while we watch TV. I was just licking the last of the éclairs from his fingers, and thinking about licking dessert number two when I heard the soft ding of the security system. I clicked the mike for the gate. “Yeah?” “Sean?” I heard Adam's cultured voice. “Got room for one more?” “Sure,” I chuckled, clicking the gate and front door locks for him. “Back here in the den,” I called when I heard him come in the front door. Adam Christopher Somerset is the second son of a Pennsylvania coal baron, and the nicest rich person I know. He positively drips money, from the top of his well-styled dirty blond hair to the toes of his Crockett & Jones oxfords, but you could dress him from the Salvation Army and it wouldn’t matter. He’s just a good guy, and he can ride a horse like no one else. He's the leading money winner on the circuit right now, at age 24, and there’s an Olympic gold medal tacked to his horse’s stall door back at the barn. And he rides out of Stonegate - lucky us. He's one of the best-looking men I know. Individually his features are unremarkable - dark blond hair that waves softly back off his face, hazel eyes that hold your gaze, a clean shaven jaw framing a wide mouth that smiles easily. But all together, he captures your attention the minute he enters the room. He peeked into the den, grinned when he saw Dylan and me, and dropped his clothes at the door. He knelt in front of Dylan, grabbed his dick and kissed him, reaching up to squeeze my shoulder with his other hand. He’s very fond of Dylan and I’ve often thought they’d be good for each other in a permanent sort of way, but nothing has come of it in the five years since I introduced them. When he finished greeting Dylan, he pulled me down for a kiss, and we sort of slid to the floor in a pile. When we got sorted out, Adam was leaning against the couch, Dylan was straddling his thighs facing him, and I was on my side with my head in their laps. It turned out to be a good set up and we pursued it for quite a while. I couldn’t fit both their dicks in my mouth at the same time, so I held them together and ran my tongue up one side and down the other, lingering at the top to lick and suck. The sound of them kissing above me was hard to ignore, and occasionally I went up to join them. I was curled around Dylan, who had a hand in my crotch, stroking me, rolling my nuts in his palm, and slipping a finger back now and then to give my asshole a little poke, just enough to get my attention. Eventually Adam dragged Dylan back onto the sofa, and knelt between his legs. I lubed them both, running my fist up and down Adam's dick while my other hand found Dylan’s soft pucker, pressing a finger home quickly since he was already pretty excited. I watched as Adam entered him with one long gliding thrust, my cock surging wildly as it imagined it was the lucky one. Dylan grunted at the initial penetration, and then began to moan, the sound changing from mild discomfort to pleasure as Adam slow fucked him using his whole length. I leaned against Dylan’s side, one hand on his cock, the other on my own, his arm draped over my shoulder as he rubbed my chest, pinching a nipple now and then. Observing sex is interesting. When you’re caught up in fucking, you miss so many of the finer details. How Dylan closed his eyes each time Adam plunged deep into him, then opened them on the outstroke. The tightening of Dylan’s nipples as he neared orgasm. The ripples flowing across Adam's abdominals as his hips worked. As Adam began to thrust faster, I stood and stroked myself, watching Dylan carefully so we could all shoot within a few seconds of each other. I don’t know why I get such a kick out of that, but I do, so I work at it. Suddenly Adam pulled out and jerked himself quickly, leaning over Dylan on one arm. As soon as he began to shoot, he barely hung on to his dick, letting it twitch and jerk in his loose fist, pulsing out semen in hot little bursts. I was only a moment behind, and when my first load hit his belly, Dylan groaned deeply and joined in. The three of us grunted and moaned for a couple minutes, and amused ourselves rubbing three different consistencies of cum around Dylan’s belly until he started to giggle. Eventually we staggered arm in arm up the stairs, down the hall, and into the shower. It’s an orgy room all by itself, six feet square with a tile bench around three sides, and detachable shower massage heads all over the place. Dylan’s talented mouth pulled another orgasm out of Adam, leaving him sprawled on the bench too spent to move, so we hosed him off with a shower head. Once we were clean and mostly dry, we piled onto the bed and dragged the quilt up to our chins, arranging arms and legs for maximum contact and comfort. Since it’s my house I usually get the middle, but tonight I climbed in last, and let Adam pull Dylan into the curve of his body. I cozied up to Adam’s warm backside, and we were off to dreamland. The alarm woke us at 6am, and I buzzed Maria in the kitchen that there would be three for breakfast. Yes, I have a housekeeper - sue me. She arrives at 5:30 every weekday to get my ass out of bed on time, and send me off with a healthy breakfast in my tummy. Then she cleans a little, starts dinner, and is home by the time her kids get out of school. I hired her shortly after I bought the house. She was young, scared, and illegal, so I got her legal, helped her learn English, and introduced her to her future husband Jorge, Alejandro’s cousin. I pay her well and in return, she’s nice to my friends, and takes good care of me. We’ve become close over the years, and I know it would make her happy if I found someone to come home to at night, instead of potluck like I do now. We grabbed a quick wake-up shower, somehow managing to get through it without sex, and trooped downstairs to pancakes, sausage, and orange juice. Dylan is a lawyer with a large law firm in the city. He had an eight o’clock meeting, so he headed out when I did at 7. Adam had nothing going till afternoon, so he followed me to the barn to help re-set the jumping arena. We change it up regularly to keep the horses from getting stale. I was supervising the delivery of two new jumpers when I heard a truck I didn’t recognize come up the drive. It pulled in past the horse van, and stopped about ten feet away, to where I couldn't see the cab. I figured it had to be the new farrier, and turned back to finish getting the horses off the van. One of them backed out quickly, and took a swipe at Tommy, who jumped nimbly out of the way, swearing under his breath. When I looked at the truck again, a long denim-covered leg was stretched from the seat out onto the ground, and a lean golden arm extended to the edge of the door. This was definitely not Danny. When I first took over Stonegate, I’d tried every farrier in the five-county area, finally settling on Danny as our primary shoer. He's good with the horses, firm, but quiet, and has a knack for the subtleties of trimming a hoof . Our horses move better and hold up longer under hard work when Danny does their feet. He has a few guys working for him, but always does our horses himself, and I was not going to welcome this new guy with open arms until he proved to be as good as Danny, which I doubted would be the case. As I stared, the golden arm became a smoothly curved shoulder that merged into a beautiful wide back and narrow hips, from which emerged the long leg I had first seen. Everyone’s forever starts somewhere and, although I didn’t know it at the time, mine began when TJ (not PJ) Lundquist unfolded his 6’1” self from the cab of the truck. He wore bib overalls over a white tank, and a Longhorns baseball cap on backwards to keep his pale blond hair out of his face. Some guys just have a presence, a ‘something’ about them that draws you, like a lemming to a cliff. TJ had it, whatever the hell it was. My gaze traveled slowly down his body and back up again. By the time I reached his face my respiration had increased and my palms were sweaty. Tommy and Alejandro had come up behind me and were watching with raised eyebrows and open mouths. “Madre de Dios,” breathed Alejandro. Tommy was more succinct. “Holy fuck.”
  10. And I know just where I touch you And I know just what to prove I know when to pull you closer And I know when to let you loose - Air Supply The day passed, as most do, with a variety of miscellaneous bullshit. The worst thing that happened – Alejandro finding moldy hay in the latest delivery, requiring all 103 remaining bales to be unstacked and inspected before being piled back up again – made evening feeding late. That meant I had to spend an extra 45 minutes scooping grain, measuring out vitamin and joint supplements, and weighing hay flakes before hopping on Zena bareback and loping out the gate for home. The quickest route to my place ends at my back gate, and as we trotted up the little hill to my barn I could see that the kitchen lights were on. That meant Vincent was in my kitchen, and Vincent meant home made Italian food, and hot Latin sex. My dick gave a happy twitch as I fed and blanketed Zena, and by the time I got to the house, I had a nice boner going, so I greeted Vincent with a full body hug from behind so he could enjoy it, too. “Mama Mia,” he growled when I bit the side of his neck, rolling his eyes as he stirred red sauce and sipped a glass of wine. He tipped his head back to my shoulder and kissed me, rubbing his butt into my crotch in bump and grind fashion. “You’re late. Tough day?” “Moldy hay.” He wrinkled his nose in disgust, and stuck out his tongue in a gagging motion. “Aaagghhh.” I giggled at him. “Yeah, that’s about what the horses said.” We’d met eight years ago when I was still riding professionally, before the accident. I'd made reservations at one of his parents’ restaurants - Corleone’s - and showed up only to find that they didn’t have me on the list. Vincent had come out from the kitchen to see what the problem was, one thing led to another, and we ended up dining nude in the middle of his king sized bed between rounds two and three of the hot Latin sex I mentioned earlier. My friends had shaken their heads and gone elsewhere. Vincent D'Ambruzzo is classic Italian, dark eyed, olive-skinned, with long black hair, which I realized early on was his emotional barometer. Tonight his hair was freshly washed and hanging free past his collar so I knew we would make love for hours before and after dinner. He's 32 to my 30, taut and wiry at 5’11”/152, with a runner's physique of long, lean muscles. His back is nice, not too wide at the shoulders, tapering down to narrow hips and a tight ass. His body fat is low enough that you can see the vertebrae, one by one, down the furrow of his spine. He had a sprinkling of black hair across his chest, trickling down to a small manicured patch in his groin. His cock was pinkish brown, and when fully aroused, stood out thick and straight at a 45 degree angle from his flat belly, its dark head slightly pointed with a pronounced flare, overhanging the most beautiful scrotum I’ve ever seen. Soft as velvet and hairless, the crinkly dark brown skin was seamed down the center with a firm oval hanging low in each half. His balls were very sensitive, and I loved lying between his legs tracing a finger over them to watch the skin react to my touch. He had a security code for my place, and usually showed up unannounced three or four nights a week, joining in whatever/whomever I had going that night. He was a favorite with my friends, not only for his amazing tongue, but also for the Italian pastries he frequently brought with him from the restaurant. I have no idea what he did on the evenings he wasn’t with me, but early in our relationship he'd sometimes stay away for several days. When he'd return, I'd notice what appeared to be ligature marks on his wrists, but he didn’t try to take me there, so I never asked him about it and quit looking for them. He turned to me and kissed me deeply, gazed lustfully into my eyes, then took me by the hand and pulled me into the library. As we entered the room, he stepped behind me and began to pull my shirt over my head while he steered me to the piano, shedding clothes along the way. Pushing me forward till my chest rested on the lid, he licked, nibbled and kissed his way from the back of my neck, along the center of my spine, down the valley of my ass, and ended up kneeling below me with my balls in his mouth. Now, that’s a welcome home. While Vincent’s tongue worked its magic on me I hung there with quivering knees, sighing and moaning, squirming back into his face when he did something particularly wonderful. By the time he stood up and pressed the dripping head of his rock hard cock to me, I was dizzy with arousal, and sank back onto him with a deep groan of pleasure. He lay over me, the soft hair on his chest tickling my back as he kissed my neck and ran his hands down my thighs. In this mood, Vincent is a tough act to follow, and it’s how I like him best. He is gentle, perceptive, patient, and strong, able to go for as long as I want him to - the perfect top. Other hair styles bring with them other moods. Hair gelled and wild, he can be a little rough, more concerned with his own needs than mine, and requiring my active participation. Hair tied back, he is quiet and remote, and sex with him is almost spiritual; no words, few sounds, just sensation after amazing sensation. In any mood, he is someone I enjoy being with, and I love him. It is only his unknown darker side that prevents me from developing serious feelings for him. That, and the knowledge that he doesn’t feel those emotions for me either, no matter how much he cares for me. Vincent fucked me slowly, long strokes alternating with short ones during which he tilted his hips to graze my prostate, bringing me to my toes as I fogged the glossy piano lid with my moans. Eventually he built up a rhythm, stroking me in time with his thrusts. We came together, him in me, and me in the kitchen towel he’d thoughtfully brought along. We lingered for a while, kissing and hugging, but hunger drove us back to the kitchen, and soon we were eating spaghetti with meatballs, garlic bread, and salad, naked at the counter, washing it down with a bottle of wine. We tidied the kitchen, and wandered up the wide staircase to the master bedroom, grandly situated at the back of the house. It overlooked my acreage, the stream that meanders through the estates, and a few miles distant, the steeple atop the big barn at Stonegate. Tonight it was clear and the sky was filled with stars. If you lie in bed and tip your head back a little, that’s all you see. Our shower was leisurely, more foreplay than necessity. I love playing in the shower, and Vincent was in the mood to indulge me. We slicked each other up with the shower gel, and explored all the nooks and crannies we could find, lingering when a certain spot drew a particularly enthusiastic moan. While preferring to top, Vincent occasionally likes to be fucked; it happens only in the hair loose and flowing mood. When we reached the bed, he took his arm from my shoulders and crawled forward, dropping onto his stomach in the middle of the big mattress, arms and legs spread, cock pointing toward his toes. This was my cue, so I knelt between his feet and began to run my hands lightly over his skin, licking the spot behind his knees that I found the first time he asked me do this (a story for another time). He moaned softly as I worked my way up, ruffling the hair on his thighs, pressing my thumbs lightly between his legs while I squeezed his ass, running my tongue here and there, teasing him. I’m pretty versatile, enjoying either side of a good fuck, but when I top, I feel like a different person entirely. It is much more an act of control combined with desire than being taken. When I’m being fucked by a familiar partner, I lose myself in it, trusting them to take care of me. But when I top, I must do the taking care, paying attention to the feel, the mood, of my partner, and his comfort and pleasure become my temporary universe. My cock was leaking precum to spare, so I wet two fingers and worked one slowly into him, feeling the warmth of his body envelop me. He’s always very tight, but soon loosened enough to take my other finger easily. I know that he allows only me this privilege, and I honor that trust, concentrating fully on him, wanting him to enjoy every move I make. I enjoy fingering him almost as much as I enjoy fucking him. My sensitive fingertips probed him gently, inside and out, and the smooth heat of him was very arousing. When he was clutching the sheet in his fists and moving restlessly, I removed my fingers and slid forward. He lifted his hips slightly for my entry, and I eased into him, awed as always at this joining of one man to another in the most intimate way possible. He was very relaxed and accepted me with only slight resistance, grunting softly as I sunk deeper into him. When I could go no further I leaned over him, bracing myself on my arms, and let him adjust to my friendly invasion. After a minute he shifted his body under me, reached back for my hands, laced our fingers and pulled them out to our sides so that I slowly slid down onto him, my chest to his back, rising slightly as he breathed. I began to thrust slowly with just my hips, rocking in and out of him. It’s almost hypnotic, and we can do this for long stretches of time, neither of us building to climax, just enjoying the quiet of the night and the feel of each other. Laying there on him, buried in his body, I couldn’t think of any place I’d rather be. The house was quiet, the room dark; it seemed as though we were the only two people on the planet. I nuzzled my face into his neck, breathed in the smell of him, kissed that soft spot just below his ear, nibbled on the muscles of his shoulder – loved him. His eyes were closed, and his mouth was curved in a soft smile. He made little mmm sounds now and then, tightening his fingers in mine, arching his back to bring me deeper into him. Heaven should be this good. After a while I pushed one of his knees up the bed, and rolled him onto his side, straddling his lower leg. This is his favorite position because the penetration is very deep and I can touch both sides of his body. I stroked his cock, and circled my other hand low on his back, all the while fucking him deeply. My perineum rode his thigh with perfect pressure. We didn’t speed up as the end drew near – it took me months to develop the control to be able to do this for him – just kept a steady pace, so that our orgasms built very slowly. When we finally came, it was within a stroke or two of each other. I always pull out of him, and wrap both our cocks in one fist, his hand closing over mine, and we ejaculate on his belly. We’ve done this hundreds of times; it is special for both of us, and I wouldn’t change a thing. We settled down to sleep, Vincent on his back with me draped over him. When I stirred a couple hours later, Vincent ran his hand reassuringly down my arm. I was surprised that he was awake, so I watched him as I drifted off. He lay still, staring at the ceiling, his face sad, and I felt a flutter of unease in my stomach, though I couldn't have said why.
  11. When I look in my future, You're all I can see, So, honey, don't go lovin' on nobody but me - Blake Shelton “I promise…” He stopped and licked his lips, then swallowed, and spoke very deliberately. “I promise that you will never regret loving me.” I don’t know what I thought he was going to say, but his words shattered me. I felt my face begin to crumble, and ground my teeth together. He deserved better than tears. I stayed by the dresser, watching him until I could speak. Even then my voice was not quite steady. “And I promise that I will love you as fully as you deserve." We looked at each other as our words hung in the quiet room. They sounded like vows to me, and it was then that I felt my first real sense of us as a couple, that I was no longer just one man against the world. Vincent had committed himself to me, and I made another vow then - a silent one - that I would never forget how close we had come to losing each other. I would always treat our relationship with the care and importance that something so rare and special deserved. I studied his face carefully, memorizing the moment. “I’m so glad you’re here.” He came to me then and we held each other, rocking a little, content in the knowledge of how good this was and how lucky we were. After we ate lunch by the pool, Tommy and Alejandro took the van back to the barn. Vincent and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Nothing to do and all day to do it. We had our clothes off in an instant, and spent the afternoon swimming, reading, and lying in the sun. I was on my back, almost asleep, when I felt the cushion sag under Vincent’s weight. He lowered himself onto me, laying his half-erect cock on my belly, and I could feel the soft weight of his balls settling between my thighs. We kissed for a long time, growing hard, moving against each other a little, until Vincent lifted himself from my chest slightly, and began to glide his erection through the smooth friction of our precum-slippery groins. We shifted around a bit till we got the angle just right, then he started to thrust in long fast strokes, dragging his cock next to mine, the heads bumping, the sensitive undersides stroked by the tight muscles of our stomachs. He worked at it, head hanging between his braced arms, breathing hard, dripping sweat onto my chest. I gripped his forearms and moved opposite him, straining against his body until we both started to come. Then he slowed his movements and stroked leisurely while we rolled through our orgasms, grunting softly with each contraction, squishy little noises from our cum-covered stomachs making us smile at each other. He slid off me, and we dozed until hunger woke us, showering quickly and raiding the kitchen to haul it all in front of the TV in the den. Vincent knew every inch of my house already, so it barely felt different to have him there full time. What was different was knowing that he would be there - that we would wake up, fall asleep, cook, eat, fuck – every day, together. We secluded ourselves the next two weeks, telling our friends only that I was busy, and inviting everyone to a pool party the Saturday after next. I saw TJ at the barn a couple times, greeting him with affection and cornering him in the men’s room one time for a big wet kiss, making him promise to come to the party. Cody waggled his eyebrows at me and I grinned back, so I think he knew how things had worked out. I saw the joint doctor who gave me some exercises to help break up the scar tissue in my shoulder that had built up over the years. Vincent was like the Gym Police, making sure I did them every day, and slowly it began to feel better. Vincent and I talked a lot during that time, learning more about our pasts, sharing little bits of things about ourselves. I confided that I still jerked off over a picture of him from four years ago dressed as a pirate for Halloween. He made me show him the picture, a little crinkled around the edges from me clutching it in the throes of orgasm. He has a patch over one eye, a bright scarf around his head, and he’s leering at the camera, his dark chest bare, tight pants revealing the bulge of his cock and balls. When he stopped laughing, he told me the fantasy he’d had after watching me ride for the first time. I had been schooling one of Maddy’s big Holsteiners, posting to the trot as we circled the arena. He imagined sitting on the saddle behind me, his dick up my butt, me bouncing merrily up and down on him as we trotted around. When I told him that might actually be possible, his eyebrows shot up to his hairline and he grinned at me. Maria fed us like kings, so we started getting up a little earlier and going for a run through the estates. At first it was tough to get a good run in. The first morning Vincent dragged me behind the gardener’s shed at the back of the development and ravished me on a pile of sod. The second morning it was up in the tree house we found at the edge of the piney woods, with the rising sun seeping in through the branches. The third morning I sucked him off quickly before we got out of bed and we made it the whole way around without incident. We ate in every night those two weeks, viewing it as a honeymoon of sorts, and we weren’t interested in anyone else’s company. Maria left us something most nights, and Vincent cooked a few times. We read, watched TV, played cards, the usual evening pursuits, and it was so comfortable that it was difficult to believe that neither of us had ever lived with a lover before. One morning I woke before him. He had kicked off the sheet and was sprawled on his back, his soft penis curled into its nest of short black hair. I wrapped my fingers gently around it, and the feel of its fragile warmth in my hand brought a flood of emotion that tightened my throat. I looked at Vincent's peaceful sleeping face, and wanted desperately to somehow keep him from life's inevitable hurts and disappointments. I knew that was impossible and unrealistic, but it didn't lessen the urge to want to hold him close and keep him safe. He stirred a little, and I began a rhythmic squeezing with my hand. By the third one, his cock was coming gloriously alive. I was mesmerized by the sight of it swelling and lengthening in my hand. Usually, by the time we got naked with each other, it was upright and ready, so it wasn't often that I got to enjoy the process. When his cock was fully erect and twitching in my grip, I glanced up at him. He was watching me through narrowed eyes. "You better have plans for that," he muttered in his deep, gravelly morning voice. Luckily, I did. We made love often - every morning, either in bed or out on the trail somewhere (turns out we both love morning sex, something we hadn’t known about each other until we were together every morning), and again at night. We also both loved fucking somewhere other than the bedroom, and during those two weeks he burned dinner while taking me over the kitchen table, damn near drowned us both in the pool, and seduced me under a full moon on a blanket in the pasture with Zena grazing nearby. Not to mention our morning adventures while jogging. We were very happy, and those two weeks bonded our partnership like nothing else could have. We emerged two halves of a whole, a strong couple, loving, trusting, in tune with each other in ways I’d seen in only a few other relationships. Pool party Saturday dawned clear and hot - perfect for a day of playing with friends. Dylan and Adam were cavorting in the water naked when Tommy and Alejandro arrived. I sent them out to the pool, and was heading back to the kitchen when I saw TJ’s Explorer turn in the lane. I alerted Vincent, and walked out to meet him. We hugged and kissed when he got out of the truck, and I walked him to the door with my hand on the back of his neck. I knew he was nervous, and when he saw Vincent smiling at him from the doorway, he stopped for a moment, took a deep breath, then marched up to him. Vincent shook his hand, running his free hand up and down TJ’s upper arm, then led the way to the kitchen. Dylan chose that moment to come bouncing in the door for more chips, his cock flopping from thigh to thigh. When he spotted TJ, he stopped dead, grinned like a fool and kissed him, a wet sloppy smack. TJ had been with them a couple more times since the night we went there together, and they were getting to be a regular threesome. TJ kissed him back, and smiled at Dylan’s ass as he trotted back out to the pool. Cody and Wade arrived, greeting us all with hugs and kisses, TJ included, and he returned the kisses with enthusiasm, eyeing Wade with interest. Soon everyone was naked in the pool except TJ and Vincent, who went to where TJ was sitting and straddled the bench behind him, reaching down to pull TJ’s t-shirt off. Vincent rubbed sunscreen onto his back, and I could see TJ relax under his hands; Vincent’s tongue isn’t the only thing that’s magic. When Vincent moved to his chest, he pulled TJ back against him and I could see them talking. After a few moments, they stood up and Vincent’s thumbs hooked into TJ’s shorts, hauling them down those long tan legs. When he bit TJ on the ass, TJ jumped a foot, then laughed and leaped into the pool with the rest of us. I smiled a 'thanks' at Vincent, who stripped and cornered me in the pool for a deep, wet kiss, groping me lustfully. We grilled steaks, sausage, corn and veggies as evening fell, sitting around the pool in various groups as we got up to get more food and sat back down somewhere else. Somehow the conversation got around to blow job techniques. Cody was so adamant that Wade was the deep throat queen, we decided on a contest to settle the matter. We looked at the sausages, but they were way too small, so we started looking at each other. Most of us had been with one other over the years so we were familiar with the available equipment in its aroused state. TJ was a bit of a wild card, but three of us had seen his cock hard, so we took that into consideration. Finally, we settled on me as being the longest at about 8.5”, not as thick as Vincent or Wade, but deep throating is all about length, so I was ‘it.’ Plus, my cock had been in everyone’s mouth over the years except Alejandro’s. The rules were simple – whoever could get my cock the furthest down his throat in three tries, won. I was ceremoniously laid out on a chaise with a cold beer, and Vincent got me groaningly hard with his hand and mouth, causing several partial erections, and a few empathetic moans as I writhed under Vincent’s ministrations. Dylan waved his hand to go first, and everyone gathered around to witness his attempt. He ended up about two inches from my belly, gagged, and backed away to make room for the next contestant. Adam, Tommy, Cody, and Alejandro didn’t get quite that far, shaking their heads and vowing to practice more. We all giggled, but sobered up quickly when Wade stepped up to me, leaned over and buried his nose in my bush on the first go. I came off the chaise with a gasp and grabbed his head, holding him there for a second. Does anything feel as good as having your cock buried deep in some hot guy’s throat? Well, yeah, actually, but this is a close second. I crossed my eyes and flopped back, gathering my control for the last two contestants. TJ was looking anxiously between me and Vincent. We hadn’t announced our partnership yet, but he was well aware that he was about to wrap his lips around a cock that belonged to Vincent, and he was having second thoughts. Vincent finally teased him into it, and he rested his hand on my leg, squeezing a little as he leaned over me. As his lips parted, I held my breath. I was still very attracted to him and wasn’t sure how I was going to react to this. Vincent seemed to sense my unease and grabbed my hand, holding tight as TJ inhaled me until his lips were pressed tight to the base of my penis, beating Wade by a nose. Everyone cheered as he slid his mouth back up me, giving the leaking slit of my cock a flick as he sat back with a satisfied smile. Vincent eyed him for a moment, and as I looked up at him, it hit me why he was going last. He planned to win and use the ensuing celebration to announce us as a couple. But how could he beat TJ? Ha - what did I know? He grabbed my cock in one hand, stroking me until my eyes crossed and I was purple and straining at the seams, getting another half inch out of me. He cupped my balls in his other hand as he worked his mouth down my cock, pausing occasionally to whet the audience’s anticipation, stopping when his lips meet my belly, a tie with TJ. But he wasn’t finished. One by one, he gently pushed my balls into his cheek, dragging groans from everyone's throat but his own, it being filled with me. He rolled his eyes at me, and then pulled up a little, letting my balls slide out of his mouth. He started working on my cock with his tongue and I tried to shove him away, wondering what the hell he was doing. He moved up and down on me, root to crown, and silence fell as our friends realized what was happening. Never one to miss an opportunity, Dylan immediately sat down next to me and started stroking his cock, moaning quietly and watching us intently. One by one the others joined him, transfixed by the sight of Vincent sucking me with those long, deep pulls. I came on the ninth one, crying out, and twisting away from Vincent’s strong suction. He stayed on me, pumping me with his hand, keeping the head of my cock in his mouth for the first couple shots. Then he lifted off and let the rest pulse out onto his hand, dribbling down his fingers. The guys unloaded then, either onto me or each other. TJ stood near my hip, eyes closed, pulling gently on his cock, milking every last drop. God, he was hot. I watched him until he opened his eyes to mine, smiling at him. He returned the smile and came to me when I held out my hand, pulling him down and kissing him deeply. Vincent put his hand on the back of TJ’s neck and when our kiss broke, he turned TJ to him and chased my kiss with his own. I could see him respond to the skill of TJ’s mouth; he tilted his head and leaned into TJ, deepening the kiss. When they pulled apart, they looked at each other for a few seconds, and I knew TJ would be coming to bed with us tonight. Vincent stood, pulling me up with him, and threw an arm around my shoulders. I looked around at my circle of friends, watching us in the twilight. “Vincent and I finally realized we’re in love, after all these years. He moved in a couple weeks ago.” We waited through the hugs and kisses, accepting congratulations, grinning at each other. “And, and, we’re going to play as a couple, so don’t cross us off your social calendar.” That was greeted with cheers and a few friendly gropes. As I mentioned earlier, Vincent was a favorite bed partner. We all jumped in the pool to wash off, played volleyball for a while, ate again, and finally started winding down. Tommy and Alejandro left for home since they had to feed thirty-two horses the next morning. Cody and Wade headed for the cabana, while Dylan and Adam followed Vincent, TJ, and I to the house. At the top of the stairs, they broke left to the far guest room, and Vincent grabbed TJ by the wrist, bringing him with us. We showered to get the chlorine off, drying each other half heartedly, and then fell into bed, me in the middle with Vincent’s ass in my crotch, and TJ draped over me from behind. He had a hard-on going that I thought we might have to do something about, but he settled down and fell asleep without too much wiggling. We woke up as the sun was rising over the pasture, rotated through the toilet and sink, then headed back to bed. I lay on my back with my hands behind my head; TJ and Vincent were propped on either side of me. Vincent’s hand wandered over me, tugging at little tufts of hair in my crotch, swirling a finger around my nipple, licking the soft curve of my armpit. TJ watched him, but didn’t touch me until Vincent leaned across to kiss him, playing in his mouth while gradually moving back, bringing TJ with him. Finally TJ had to put a hand on me or fall over, and he ended up holding my far hipbone, his forearm lying low across my belly, just brushing my soft dick. I pushed up into him a little, smiling as the warmth and pressure of his arm stiffened me. He broke the kiss and glanced down, then took me in his hand, stroking gently. “I hear Sean took care of you the other night,” Vincent said with a smile. He blushed. “Yeah. It was . . . good.” I raised my head and glared at him. "Good? It was just 'good'?" He laughed. "Okay, okay, it was great, all right? Amazing." “Wanna try it from the other side?” TJ and I looked at Vincent. “You don’t mind, do you, babe?” he said, raising an eyebrow at me. I rolled my eyes. “Oh, well, if I have to.” “Okay, we’ll do this together,” he said to TJ, crawling between my legs, and pulling TJ around beside him. “Lube us all real good.” TJ went to work, doing himself first, then Vincent’s twitching erection, finally sliding a warm hand down from my balls to rub a cautious finger around my asshole. “Push it in,” Vincent instructed, shoving my knee back so he could watch TJ’s progress. I groaned as TJ’s big, blunt middle finger pushed into me. “All the way.” TJ’s face was a study in concentration as he watched his finger disappear, glancing up at me when he was in. I groaned, and arched back a little as he sunk in. Love those knuckles. . . Vincent had been screwing me at least once a day for the past two weeks, so I didn’t need all the prep work he ran TJ through, but it felt great and TJ needed to learn in case he topped someone less experienced than me. By the time he had three fingers in me, TJ was shaking worse than I was and had to stop. Vincent passed the time playing with TJ’s ass, slipping just the tip of his finger in and out, and fondling my dripping dick, drawing precum circles on my balls. When TJ had recovered sufficiently, Vincent stroked him firmly several times, making TJ gasp, and bringing him fully erect. Then he nodded at me and I grabbed my knees, spreading myself for TJ’s assault. “Move up a little, spread your knees," Vincent instructed. "Hang onto your dick right below the head and push into him. Don’t put too much effort into it cause you only want to go in to here,” he instructed, giving TJ’s cock a squeeze. TJ took a deep breath, and as I felt him press against me, I pushed slightly and in he went. He let out a quavery moan and closed his eyes tight. I smiled at Vincent, remembering our first time. “All the way now, slowly,” Vincent encouraged him, and TJ slid tentatively into me, breathing hard through his mouth at the tight grip of my ass around his lurching cock. When he was buried in me, he stopped and fell forward onto braced arms, hanging over me. “Jesus! I had no (moan) . . . fucking (pant) . . . idea (grunt).” He hung there for a few moments, then began to slide slowly out of me, a tight grimace on his face. When he sank back in, his features relaxed and his mouth fell open as a long 'ahhhhhhhh' sighed out of him. He picked up the pace and came in just a few minutes, groaning loudly with each shot. When he was finished, Vincent claimed me, impatiently shoving his way in, rock hard from having watched TJ come in me. TJ’s eyes were glued to where Vincent’s cock moved in and out of my body. Vincent began thrusting quickly, and I knew we wouldn't last long, so I started stroking myself, watching Vincent’s face as he pumped into me. When he began to climax, he opened his mouth in a silent grimace, each spasm jerking him hard inside me. I got myself off a couple strokes after him, and for a full minute all you could hear were grunts and groans as we emptied ourselves. “Ahhhh. God.” TJ collapsed on his back, one hand spread across his chest, his mostly hard dick still twitching on his belly. We lay there for a while, getting our breath back. “That was unreal. I’m a top. For sure.” He looked quickly at me. “Not that I didn’t enjoy the other night, but this was way better. What a feeling!” “You think so, huh? You haven’t been fucked by Vincent yet. I’m a novice compared to him.” “Well, hardly,” Vincent snorted. “You do me just fine.” “Yeah, but you’re more experienced than I am, and have better control. It makes a difference. I know - I’ve been fucked by guys like me.” TJ was listening with interest. “Okay. If you want to,” he added quickly, glancing at Vincent. I could see Vincent was interested – his cock was already perking back up, but he looked at me and my heart gave a little twist. He wanted to, I knew that. What I suddenly wasn't so sure about was whether I could say okay. Vincent watched me carefully, his eyes locked on mine, and then he cupped my face in his hand and ran his thumb lightly over my mouth. "I love you." That was all I needed. I knew he did, I knew we were stronger together than I gave us credit for, but sometimes I still needed to hear it.
  12. I'll be somewhere down in Texas if you're lookin' for me, Drinkin' in that great wide-open, soakin' up the summer breeze. Kickin' back an' settled in with my family. I'll be somewhere down in Texas if you're lookin' for me. - Somewhere Down In Texas, George Straight “Sean, that new mare’s got thrush, the skinny grey one that came in yesterday.” “What?” I scowled at Tommy as he passed me in the barn aisle with a huge wheel barrow full of dirty bedding. We have 2-wheel carts that are a hell of a lot easier to keep upright when piled high with horse shit, but Tommy likes the old single-wheeled ones for the workout it gives his arms and shoulders. “That wasn’t in the vet check.” “Yeah, well, she’s got it. Right rear.” As he headed out the door and across the lot, I walked down a few stalls, and went in with the new horse. She was well built, mostly Warmblood with a little Thoroughbred in there somewhere which partly accounted for her current ribby appearance. She had her right rear hoof cocked, and picked it up quickly when I ran my hand down her leg. As I pressed a thumb into her frog, the black ooze combined with the tell-tale odor made the diagnosis simple. “God damn,” I muttered as I headed for Sam's office, but stopped as a thought occurred to me. Danny (think Keanu Reeves with a few more muscles, but, unfortunately, straight as the proverbial arrow), our farrier, was coming tomorrow; he could trim her and see how bad it was. I went back, and picked the mare’s foot as deeply as I could, made sure her shavings were dry, then blanketed her for the night. One less for Tommy and Alejandro to do. I’m Sean Flanagan, head trainer and general manager of a stable for a variety of horsey sports – hunter/jumper, dressage, eventing, the odd pleasure horse, with a couple reining cowhorse types thrown in to keep it interesting. At any given time we have 25-35 horses, each with its owner, rider, groom, etc. I train many of the horses, and keep track of the big picture. We have stabling for 54 horses in a total of 4 barns, but have never been at capacity since I’ve been running the place. That many animals require more support staff than I’m currently interested in keeping track of. During the off season it’s pretty mellow, but once the shows start up, it can be a madhouse - horses shipping out and arriving, riders throwing hissy fits, grooms braiding manes and tails for the jumping arena when the horse is headed for the dressage ring. But the fringe benefits are great. If you want to see some hot male bodies, hie thee to a horse show. Damn near the entire body is used in riding a horse, and a rider at the level we consort with has had a lifetime of training, hours a day in the saddle (not that saddle), more hours at the gym, and it shows in lean, hard, beautifully muscled bodies. There aren’t a lot of men that into horses, but the ones who are – God, are they built. Over the years, we’ve garnered a reputation as a top notch, alternative lifestyle friendly barn, and had more than our share of wealthy homos whose horses called Stonegate Stables home. Tommy and Alejandro met here seven years ago when I took over, bringing my groom and occasional bed warmer Tommy with me, and they’d been partners since. The minute we set foot on the place, Alejandro stalked Tommy up one barn aisle and down the other, finally cornering him in the hay shed, and staking his claim, so to speak, over a bale of alfalfa. Tommy runs the fleet of stableboys required to keep a place the size of Stonegate going every day. Do you have any idea how much manure 35 horses produce? He also monitors our inventory of alfalfa, grass hay, grain, supplements, stall shavings, etc, and tells Teresa when we're getting low. Alejandro is the head groundskeeper, responsible for maintaining the buildings, fences, equipment, etc, that keeps Stonegate functioning. They live in the roomy apartment directly above my head, and are responsible for the daily welfare of the ridiculously expensive, overly pampered equine athletes lounging, eating, and shitting in the rows of stalls in our barns. Teresa, our CPA, keeps the books, invoicing and paying the bills. Tall and willowy, her brown hair cut into short spikes, she is devoted to her other half, Sam (don’t fucking call me Samantha). Sam is our vet. She worked for a large animal clinic outside Boston after she graduated, which is where she met Teresa. Sam got tired of treating torn cow udders and impacted pig rectums, so they looked for someplace as different from Boston as it could be and wound up here, in East Texas. I’d been at Stonegate for about a year at that point, and had been toying with the idea of hiring our own vet. With so many horses on the payroll, one of them was always needing shots, getting kicked, or developing colic, and I was tired of begging the local vets to fit us into their schedule yet again. When I saw Sam’s ad in Equine Daily, the local horse paper, I called her. She wanted more than we could afford, but the offer of living rent-free in the cute little stone cottage by the creek at the back of the property clinched the deal, and they moved in the following week. They also handle all the transport stuff – health certificates, truck and trailer booking, etc - required to get a horse from point A to point B, and frequently on to points C, D, E and F, all on time, and in good health. Sam looks like a cheerleader - all tits, teeth and blond hair - but she takes care of Teresa and our horses with a fierce competence that made her invaluable to Stonegate, and has me just slightly afraid of her. William Shepard, a very successful architect with a penchant for Gran Prix riders, owns Stonegate, but rarely makes an appearance, preferring instead to travel with his rider du jour, at least until they tire of each other, at which time he’ll hang out at the stable for a week or two, issuing half-assed orders no one follows, until another comely face sweeps him off to Devon or Wellington or Aachen. He keeps a home out at the west edge of the property, a large modern ranch, complete with pool, hot tub, tennis court, etc. It’s a lovely place, but empty for the most part as he gallivants across the country in his little jet ferrying his current boyfriend to the next stop on the circuit. So yours truly ran the place like it was my own, kept the horses in show condition, and soothed the little tantrums that occurred between owner, trainer, rider, and groom. I’d had an outstanding junior career, winning rider of the year when I was 19, and at 22, appeared to be headed for an equally illustrious domination of the pro circuit until an over-trained, under-talented 11 year old gelding refused a jump, a wide oxer, pile-driving my left shoulder into the upright. Almost a year of my life and three operations later, it worked okay, but couldn’t handle the stress of competition, riding 8 hours a day, 7 days a week. So, at 23, I was unemployed. I was William's flavor of the month at the time of the accident. William came home with me, and stayed close by until I was safely through the first surgery, then eased his way out the door to romance my successor, a blond twit named Royce, of all things. But he was good to me when we were together, and I appreciated his friendship, and the freedom he gave me in running Stonegate. I'd met Vincent only a few months before the accident. He and my cousin Dylan kept me alive through the depression, worked out with me through the physical therapy, and gave me the emotional support I needed to get back to living after my life changed so abruptly. I’d been riding a Stonegate horse when I was hurt, one of several owned by Amanda Colson, (yes, those Colsons), and when I was fit to work, she presented me to William who was ecstatic to find someone he knew and trusted to help him out of a distasteful situation. His barn manager had just been caught in flagrante delicto in the tack room with the barely 18 year old daughter of one of his major owners, and he’d been instructed to 'do something' about it immediately. He fired the guy at 7am, hired me at 8, and I’ve been here since, finding the job challenging, satisfying, and, thanks to William's lingering affection for me, well paying. I ride several hours every day, training and exercising the more important of our residents when their usual riders are out of town. So here I am at 30, your basic gay white boy – 5’10”, 155, brown/brown, cut dick, decent body in good shape from a fast metabolism and all those hours in the saddle. I have frequent, satisfying sex with a small, close circle of friends, men I’ve known for years, and an occasional temporary player who passes through, as in the case of the hunky Swedish vet student from a couple years ago. I’m fairly content with my life, though lately I’m feeling the urge for something more. Another horse? A new car? A man of my own? Something… My parents live in a rambling old house at the edge of a neighboring town, and we see each other frequently. I came out to them when I was 16 and heading off for my first full season of competition. They took the news with aplomb, finding it no odder than the fact that I could make a living dressing up in tight white breeches, and riding horses that cost more than their house. My mother welcomed my friends into her home with the same warmth and affection that she showed the endless succession of stray animals that my sister Bridget dragged home. She fed and loved them, one and all, and sent them on their way when they were well and able. My father financed her soft heartedness by working hard, and paying attention during the dot com boom. Stonegate started life out in the boonies, but civilization crept out to meet us, and now the 340 acres we occupy is surrounded on three sides by country estates, 5 acres minimum, and by a huge open air mall across the road. The folks who live in the nearest estates have to put up with the scent of horses and their byproducts when the wind is right, but Stonegate is a beautiful stable with its stately rows of pines, imposing stone buildings, and sleek, pricey horses dotting the pastures, and lends an air of country gentrification to the neighborhood. I own one of the larger estates, twelve acres, purchased when they were practically giving them away cause no one wanted to live a whole thirty minutes from the nearest Starbucks. Now there’s one across the road in the mall, and my place is worth fifty times what I paid for it. It’s about four miles from my little barn to Stonegate, and I usually ride a horse back and forth. I own a Quarter horse mare named Zena, and the ride through the gathering dusk along the bridle paths that wander around the estates is my favorite time of day. I have a modest house by neighborhood standards - fifteen rooms, two pools and a hot tub - and I cavort about in it with various friends almost every night. It really is a lovely place to live. “Sean.” I heard the Oklahoma drawl of my favorite cowboy and turned to smile into his brown eyes, shadowed by the brim of his Stetson. “How they hangin’, bubba?” he inquired, giving my butt a friendly squeeze on his way past. At twenty-six, Cody is a good looking guy with a rangy build suitable to lounging in the saddle all day. And he’s the real deal, cowboy-wise, son of a three time all around world champion cowboy, and a champion reiner in his own right. We ride together frequently, and my cow work is coming along nicely. Zena’s got the build and breeding for it, and Cody is a patient teacher. He grew up near Lawton on his daddy’s huge ranch, I forget how many acres, riding and roping his way through the daily life of a working cattle ranch as soon as he could stay on a horse. He’s an excellent trainer, having that extra bit of horse savvy that separates the good from the great. He rodeoed when he was young, taking the Youth title 2 years in a row, but quit to concentrate on reining and cow work. He lives with Wade, my money guy, in one of the estates on the far side of the development from me. Wade bought it the same time his dad advised me to buy my place. After I was injured, I realized I needed to get smarter about money since I'd be earning less of it. Wade's father took my winnings, rider contract fees, product endorsements, and insurance settlement, and turned them into a mid seven figure portfolio by the time I was 28. He passed me along to Wade after Wade joined the firm. Wade played college ball in Minnesota, quarterback, and still looks the part at 31, his 6’2” frame wide through the shoulders with muscular arms and powerful legs. His short blond hair and green eyes make him damn near irresistible and for a while I thought I wanted him for my own, but although we had a great time in bed, the sparks weren't there, and we became good friends. I introduced him to Cody after luring Cody away from a stable on the other side of the county four years ago. When Cody got out of his truck that first day and realized we were a jumper and dressage barn, he almost drove away. I convinced him to take a look around, introduced him to Tommy and Alejandro, and showed him the south barn, which already housed Zena and Teresa's two Quarter horse geldings. When I told him we’d be happy to keep a few steers around the place, Sam sent our van for his horses the next day. He met Wade a week later when Wade stopped by the barn to have me sign some papers. They dated for a month, Cody moved in, and, as different as they are, they are one of the strongest couples I know. The dressage riders were rude to Cody, and made stupid cowboy jokes until he told one of them if they thought it was so fuckin' easy, they oughta try it. He dared one of them to ride his old cutting horse, a Doc O’Lena grandson, on a cow. Word got around, we started a pool – rider vs horse - and the event drew a good crowd. The horse did his thing, and when the silver medal winning dressage rider dismounted pale and shaking 5 minutes later, the pot went to the horse. The dressage rider soon added his own Quarter horse to the south barn, and rides with us regularly. “Hey. Shoer's coming tomorrow morning so don’t come out till after lunch. I'll have him do Queenie first.” Who but a gay cowboy would name his horse Queenie? The fact that she is a world caliber cutting horse, and had won the national finals in February only makes it funnier. “Yeah? Well, Ah may show up jista git a gander at Danny’s ass,” he said with a wink and sauntered off across the yard to the south barn. A minute later I heard Queenie’s nicker as she greeted him. Horses know who loves ‘em. I watched Cody work Queenie for a while, appreciating the endless training it took to achieve those sliding stops and perfect roll backs. When Cody rode off to work the steers, I stopped by the office to check in with Teresa, and make sure money matters were under control. She was running her fingers through her hair in frustration, and crossed her eyes at me while she argued with the hay guy about the moldy bales. “I don’t give a rat’s ass what it looked like when it got delivered to you – it’s moldy now and I won’t feed it. Get a truck out here by noon Wednesday or I’m going to take out an ad in Equine Daily and you’ll be paying me to replace it!” She banged the phone down. “Fuck! That guy is such a jerk. Is there no where else we can buy alfalfa?” “Probably. Call around and see what you can find. I've got no problem changing suppliers if you can get the same deal.” “OK, cool. Thanks.” She glanced at a note on her desk, then back up at me. “Danny called and said he’s sending a new guy tomorrow, PJ something. I couldn’t understand him. He was out at Baker’s place, and his cell was breaking up.” I looked at her in horror. “Jesus, he can’t do that. This is the last shoeing for Amanda’s horses shipping to Westview. It needs to be right.” “I know, I told him that, and he swears this guy is good. He was insulted that I thought he’d send someone who didn’t know what they were doing.” “I don’t give a shit if he’s insulted or not.” I thought for a moment. “I’ll let him do Queenie first. If he’s ok with her, he can do the others.” I walked back out to the barn shaking my head. It was always something. And what the hell kind of name was PJ for a horse shoer?
  13. Gabriel Morgan

    Chapter 4

    Our bedroom is pitch black, a total absence of light. It is a cloudy night to begin with, and Alex pulled the blackout shade when we came into the room. I turn on the bedside light and look at him questioningly. “I want it dark,” he says, one corner of his mouth curving provocatively. I glance around the room, and realize that he has unplugged the clock, the TV, the DVD player – even the tiniest sources of light have been obliterated. I turn back to him and smile, letting him know that I’m ready to play this new game. He comes to me, catching my face in his hands, fingers splayed across my jaw, thumbs rubbing gently near the corners of my mouth. He looks at me, wandering his eyes over my face, a face he must have memorized after all these years, but he does this occasionally, as though checking for any tiny change he may have missed since the last time. I gaze back at him, warming under his intense look. It’s difficult to hold still when he studies me like this. I want to lean into him, run my tongue along his bottom lip until he can’t stand it and grabs me to him. He reaches behind me to turn off the light and begins to undress me, one button at a time, licking a path down my smooth chest as my shirt falls open, ending with his tongue in my belly button. He probes it gently, then moves lower, tugging at the ribbon of soft dark hair that disappears into my jeans. I can’t see him at all - closing my eyes wouldn’t make it any darker - I can only feel his hands and his mouth, and hear him breathing. He stands, running his hands down my arm, freeing my wrist from the cuff, pressing a kiss into my palm, before taking my middle finger into his mouth. His lips slide completely down my finger, catching my breath and sending chills up my back. His mouth is hot and wet, and his tongue presses my finger up to his palate as he sucks it. I can feel the pull deep inside me, in my balls, and they lift a little closer to my body in anticipation. My penis goes from firm to hard in seconds, desperate to join my finger in the dark, wet heat of his mouth. While he sucks, his fingers run up my arm, stroking the soft skin on the inside of my elbow, flexing into the firm muscles of my bicep in silent appreciation, raking through the silky hair of my armpit just firmly enough. My knees are trembling by the time he slides his mouth slowly off my finger and brings it to mine. His tongue follows the rough edge of my top teeth until it is inside my mouth, circling slowly through our joined saliva, tasting me. I sway a little, dizzy with arousal and unable to keep my balance in the black void of the room. He removes my shirt and turns his attention to my jeans, skimming his fingers down the buttons, thumbing them down my hips into a puddle at my ankles. When he turns me, I gasp, falling, then sink onto the bed on my back. He chuckles softly, tugging my jeans off my feet. He quickly removes his own clothing and kneels on the floor between my legs. I know that’s where he is only because he's shoving my knees apart, licking high on the inside of my thigh, his breath warm on my testicles. With no other sensory input available, I relax and surrender to his mouth and hands, to the darkness that surrounds us so completely that I can almost feel its velvety weight against my skin. His tongue drops into the smooth heat of my groin, freshly shaven earlier this evening, by him. My scrotum draws tighter as he traces the dark seam from back to front with the tip of his tongue, then back down again. As he does this, my cock throbs up from my belly, aching for contact, and my hips roll with the travel of his tongue. He sucks both balls into his mouth in one slow inhalation and stills for a moment. There is a total lack of sensation – no sight, no sound, no motion – and I hold my breath, suspended, until his mouth begins to knead my testicles in a slow undulating motion. His tongue separates them gently, rolls them from one side of his mouth to the other; he sucks them deeper, then lets them slide free, and the air feels cool after the heat of his mouth. I feel him rise slightly on his knees, his head sideways, mouthing his way up my penis, pressing it to my stomach with just a hint of teeth cushioned by soft lips. A single finger hooks around my erection, pulling it upright, and I feel his tongue touch just the drop of precum welling out of me. How can he possibly have such precision of movement in this absolute darkness? Does he know every centimeter of my body so well? Perhaps. I know that this is the most unusual thing he has ever done to me. I rise up from the bed with a gasp as he takes me deeply into his throat on one long slide. The physical sensations are wonderful, but the real thrill comes from my mind, from knowing that he has completely engulfed this most sensitive part of me. I sink back down as he begins to slide his firm lips up and down me, pausing at the top of each stroke to swirl his tongue around the head of my cock. That's a wonderful sensation, one that always draws an involuntary 'ahhhh' from me. He wraps his hand around me and follows his mouth as he sucks me. The small rotations of his fist pull me up from the mattress in an attempt to prolong the motion. By the time he leaves my erection for the darker pleasures of my ass, I am lost in the feel of him, eyes wide open to the night sky that is our bedroom ceiling. After propping me on a pillow, Alex pushes my knees back to the sides of my chest and I almost feel as though I’m going to roll completely over, but his firm grip on my hips keeps me steady. When the tip of his tongue first touches my hole, I shudder and moan, and I think I can feel his mouth widen in a smile. That would be just like him – he enjoys knowing he’s making me lose my mind, one lick at a time. The sounds his mouth makes on me seem louder in the dark, more distinct, and I listen to them with growing arousal. It sounds wet and delicious, and I wish for a moment that our positions were reversed, that I was tasting him, instead of the other way around. But then he nips my ass cheek firmly enough to make me jump, and I realize there’s no where else on earth I’d rather be. When he feels I’m sufficiently primed, he nibbles his way completely up my body, stopping at my nipples for a few moments, just long enough to harden them with little flicks of his tongue. As he kisses me, he presses the head of his cock to me, rocking a half inch in either direction, just enough to tease me unbearably – is this the time he’s going to complete the stroke? Finally, he does, sliding into me with a smooth motion, my moan rising in pitch as his depth increases. He stops then, both of us needing a minute to regroup. I can tell by his breathing that he’s very excited, that if I were to move now, I could push him over quickly; but I don’t want it to end any sooner than he does, so I hold still, waiting for him. When he does begin to move, it is with a broken rhythm – several long strokes followed by two or three short quick ones. He varies the spacing, and the short ones always catch me off guard, making me start in surprised pleasure as the head of his cock glides across my prostate. When he slows to kiss me, I pull him down onto me, needing his weight to hold me to the bed, to make me feel real. The utter darkness has dissolved my sense of reality, of what it was like to watch him as he made love to me; and if I can’t see him, I need to feel him. He seems to understand and slides his arms under my back, holding me tightly, kissing my face and neck. When I loosen my hold on him a little, he pushes back up to his knees, and I know it’s time. As he runs his hand down my arm, I reach for my erection, so that by the time his fingers wrap around my fist, I’m already there, stroking myself slowly. He begins to thrust with purpose now, grunting softly as he hits bottom each time, and I synchronize my strokes to his. Usually we watch each other to see how things are progressing, but I can’t see him, can’t watch his face tighten along with his testicles. I tune into the sounds he’s making and the movements of his body, and I find that it’s enough. I can tell exactly where he’s at, when he’s going to reach that point of no return, when ‘soon’ becomes ‘now.' And when it does, I’m there, too, matching him thrust for thrust, groan for groan. The sensations of orgasm are different in the dark, also; more intense, more internal, as if knowing he can't see me keeps it all inside somehow, and I feel like my heart is going to burst by the time the last of my ejaculation oozes slowly over our fingers. As we come down from one of the most interesting sexual encounters we’ve ever had, he reaches over and pulls up the shade, letting in only the faintest moon glow. It had cleared a bit since he lowered it, although how long ago that was, I have no idea. The silvery light is enough for me to see his face, his contented expression, the look in his eyes as he smiles at me. “That was amazing,” I say quietly. “I thought you might like the dark.” He rolls onto his back and slides his hand down to hold mine, squeezing softly as we both drift off to sleep in the pale light of a new moon.
  14. Gabriel Morgan

    Chapter 1

    Shadows cast from the candles on the bedside table darkened the hollows of his neck and shoulder as he arched his head back slightly. He knelt between my legs, knees spread wide, thrusting slowly into me, slowly enough that I could feel each pulse of the engorged veins of his erection rippling against my insides, the ridge around the broad head of his penis as it tugged at the muscles of my ass. His face was split - one side shadowed, the other candlelit - and the flames glimmered in his eye as he watched me. His expression was somber, almost sad, although I knew that he was just focused on the feel of our bodies moving together. I cupped his knees with my hands and rolled my wrists, my fingertips skimming lightly over his warm skin. The muscles of his throat worked as he swallowed. “God, you feel so good,” he whispered to me, his voice deep with passion and love. His hands ran slowly up and down my thighs, from knee to groin, in time with his thrusting, brushing the soft hair on my legs seductively. As his hands reached my hips, he’d stroke in, pulling me tight to him, pressing deep. Occasionally he’d stop moving and knead the muscles of my legs lovingly, his strong fingers flexing gently into me. The combination of strength and gentleness was one of the things I loved most about him and something that had drawn me to him when we first met. ----- He’d been in the park with his sister and her children on a day I’ll never forget. Sara had fallen and he’d squatted down to her, held her close to his broad chest, comforting her. I’d been reading on a nearby bench, soaking up the first really warm day of spring, and had been mesmerized by the sight of him holding the small child. She was giggling by this time, tugging at his dark beard, her small hurt forgotten. He was laughing, his teeth very white against the beard, holding her on his knee. When he released her and stood, he glanced around the park; his eyes met mine and held. I rose from the bench as he walked toward me. My book dropped from my hand, and I could feel my heart thumping at every pulse point in my body. He stopped a few feet away and just looked at me for a moment; then he smiled slightly as he held out his hand. He had large hands, the fingers well-made, the nails manicured, a sprinkle of dark hair on the back of his hand. I took it in mine and raised my eyes to his again. As our fingers tightened, the smile faded from his mouth and his other hand drew into a loose fist at his side. His eyes were green, and as he looked at me they darkened slightly, roamed over my face once, and then settled back on mine. “I’m Alex,” he said softly, and I knew I’d remember his voice forever. Deep and vibrant, it seeped through me and settled low in my belly, igniting a warm pool of longing. I nodded, waiting for my voice to steady before I spoke to him for the first time. “Joshua,” I said. “Your kids?” I had to know. “Joshua,” he repeated softly, rolling it on his tongue like vintage brandy. It thrilled me to hear him say my name, and I shivered slightly. He watched me for another long moment, then slowly released my hand. “No, my sister’s.” We turned to see them waving from the far side of the park. He lifted a hand as they got into a gray car and pulled away from the curb. He bent to retrieve my book, held it out to me, smiling slightly once more. I took it, the tips of my fingers grazing his. “How about a coffee?” he asked me as he released his hold on the book. I just nodded again, unable to speak. He seemed to understand, taking the book back from me to slide it into my backpack, then slinging it over one shoulder. We walked through the park as he spoke lightly of his sister’s family, telling me little stories, letting me recover my wits. Normally, I’m not a shy man, but I was overcome by him, by the feeling his nearness generated in me. We walked closer together than strangers would, our shoulders bumping softly when our strides were opposite each other’s, our swinging hands brushing occasionally. By the time we reached the coffee shop, I was chuckling with him at a mime we passed who walked backward along with us for several steps, patting his hand over his heart and rolling his eyes. It must have been obvious even then. We talked for hours - over that first cup of coffee, through dinner at an Italian restaurant he knew a few blocks away, over a glass of wine at his apartment. We spoke of ourselves, our wants, our fears. Never have I revealed myself to someone so easily - it was a magical evening. For him, too, I know. I watched his eyes as he spoke to me, saw them warm when I laughed with him, the corners crinkling attractively, squeezing shut momentarily in laughter, opening again to search my face as though looking for something he’d lost and maybe found. ----- He began thrusting more quickly, and I knew he would climax soon. I know him so well now, the feel of him, his needs, his likes. He scooped a drizzle of precum off my belly, then wrapped those strong fingers around my cock and began to stroke me opposite the movement of his hips. His other hand swept up my stomach to my chest, his callused palms a little rough against my skin, to roll my nipple between his thumb and forefinger. He knows me well, also. ----- He reached for my hand that first evening, twining our fingers together and pulling me closer on the couch, till my drawn-up knee met his thigh. He looked down to where our legs touched and brought our joined hands to my knee so that he could stroke his thumb against my worn jeans. The slight friction warmed me quickly, and I could feel my penis responding to his touch. After a few moments, I shifted slightly to ease the pressure and his eyes dropped to my crotch, roaming over the faded denim, traveling up my body to my mouth. I knew then that he was about to kiss me and I leaned toward him, not breathing as his lips met mine. We were barely touching, but enough that I could feel the soft skin of his mouth, taste the wine on his lips, feel the heat of him. He opened his mouth slightly and closed it over my bottom lip, tugging gently, his tongue tickling me a little as he slid it across my lip. When I sighed into his mouth, he pulled back slightly and opened his eyes. When I opened mine, he gave me that small smile that I loved already, cupped his hand around the back of my head, then kissed me deeply, moaning softly when I sucked his tongue gently. We spent hours on the couch that first night, talking, kissing, touching. I moved closer still, under his arm to lean against his chest, my face in the curve of his neck. He rubbed his cheek along the side of my face, tipping my chin up now and then to kiss me. His hand swept slowly up and down my arm, squeezing softly, kneading the back of my neck occasionally. When I slipped my hand under his t-shirt and rubbed his smooth belly, tugging gently on the narrow ribbon of dark hair that curled up out of his jeans, he sucked his breath in and held it. His skin was smooth and soft, a fragile veneer over the hard muscles of his stomach and chest. He chuckled and flinched slightly, my first indication that he was a little ticklish. I touched him more firmly and the smile died, replaced with that solemn look that I was beginning to recognize as desire. When he spoke, his voice rumbled under my ear and made me smile. I was drunk on the smell of him - soap, sweat, sunshine - and turned to bury my nose in his t-shirt. At that, he wrapped his arms around me and turned me so that I lay against him, our chests together, our faces touching. I pressed as close as I could get, feeling the jut of his hipbone in my side, the curved muscles of his shoulder under my hand. He rubbed my back, gradually moving lower until his hand was down the back of my jeans, massaging the bundle of nerves at the base of my spine. Eventually he moved me gently away and rose from the couch, bringing me with him, leading me by the hand into his bedroom, faintly illuminated by the streetlight on the corner. We embraced for a long time, standing in the shadows near the bed, our bodies close, our hips pressed together, hardening as we became more aroused. The magic of the day was still with us and we undressed each other slowly, pausing frequently to kiss, to explore newly-bared skin with lips and hands and teeth. When we were both naked, he pushed me onto the bed, twisting, breaking my fall with his body, so that I landed partially on top of him, my leg over his, my arm across his chest. I pushed my knee gently into his crotch, shoving his testicles up to the base of his erection, putting a little pressure just beneath his balls; a place, I learned that first night, that he loved to be touched. We made love easily, as if we had been together for years instead of hours, using our hands and mouths, bringing each other to strong orgasms just a stroke apart. We smiled into each other’s eyes after, in perfect harmony - already in love, I think, although neither of us said the words. We moved my things in at the end of the month, when my lease was up. We had spent every spare moment together and we didn’t even discuss it; we simply made plans for our life, knowing that it would be spent together. ----- He watches me carefully, timing his thrusting with the movements of his hand to give me the most pleasure he can. When my testicles tighten and I begin to pant, he increases the tempo of his hand, and I convulse in a powerful orgasm that arches my hips up from the bed, has me straining into his fist. The feel of my hot, thick ejaculate on his hand pushes him over, and he pumps in quick, hard spasms, his head thrown back, groaning deep in his throat as he empties himself into my body. He pulses inside me, fills me, and I come a little more onto his hand, grunting softly as he squeezes me. When his breathing slows a little, he opens his eyes to mine, smiles at me. As he leans down to kiss me, he speaks. “I love you,” he says very softly. “Remember that.”
  15. On the first sunny day of April, he tells me he’s leaving me. You remember, don’t you, how gray April was that year. It was chilly and rained for days on end; we thought we’d never see the sun again. It was as if the gods were angry with us, and we needed to make amends somehow. Sacrifice a lamb. Or maybe something a little less biblical - floss more regularly perhaps, or give up coffee for a month. Then, finally, that last Saturday in April, we wake to pale yellow bars of light slanting thru the venetian blinds, slicing the old quilt into a hundred strips of sun and shadow. I remember how you held your hand up, poking a finger into the sunshine like the Pillsbury doughboy commercial. Funny, the things that stay with you. I’d just replaced the battery in the kitchen wall clock, and I can hear it clear in the bedroom, ticking off the seconds until he sits up and faces me, a closed, uncomfortable look on his whiskery face. “I’ve been offered a job,” he begins hesitantly. “One that encompasses all the things I want to do.” He was an inveterate student, pouring through the class catalogs of the three universities within driving distance of our house with the anticipatory enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning. His words should have been cause for celebration, but the tone in which they are delivered spell our doom, and I sense it immediately. “But…” I prompt, when he stalls out, crumpling a handful of sheet in one fist as his gaze flits to mine, then away, unable to land for more than a split second. “But it’s in New York,” he finishes. “Syracuse.” His eyes meet mine then and we look at each other for a long moment. In his face, I see excitement edged with the guilt he feels at leaving me. I have no idea what he sees in my face. Nothing, I hope, because I wouldn’t ruin his joy for anything. Heinlein said that love is valuing the other person’s happiness before your own, and I believe that. I feel that for him, so instead of chancing a lapse in my control, I roll over to face the window, closing my eyes to the traitorous sun, shining so gloriously on this grim morning. He waits a few moments, waits for me to respond, to berate him for leaving me, to beg him to stay, but I lay resolute, my body still under the sheet except for the wild tremors in my chest, until he slides from the bed to begin his day. Only then do I turn my face into my pillow, pressing a fist so hard against my mouth that I taste blood, but it’s either that or scream out my pain, and that I will not do. Not for him, not for anyone. A month is not a very long time when you’re trying to make it last forever, as I am, although I’m sure for him it can’t go by quickly enough. We continue on much as we had before his life-altering announcement, sharing a bed, cooking dinner together most nights. I don’t know what he’s thinking these last days because the one thing that has changed is that we no longer confide in one another. No more whispering our deepest secrets in the safe darkness of our bedroom. Now bedtime is a perfunctory affair – brush teeth, pee, undress, slide under the covers from our respective sides – where once we chased each other about like kids, thrilled to be naked and alive and together. Together… while we’re still ‘together,’ I’m storing memories. And then, on the third of June, just as he’d told me he would on that last Saturday in April when we lay together in our sun-warmed bed, he got in his car and he drove away. I stood by the curb, following his receding taillights until he crested the hill and dropped from sight. When I could no longer see him, I took a deep, shaky breath and walked back to the house. He doesn’t live here anymore, but it will be a long, long time before he’s truly gone.
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